Erdogan’s government seeks way to curb Turkey’s top court


Istanbul: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's government Is looking for ways to stop the impact of Constitutional Court of TürkiyeInspired by its decisions to free a person in prison opposition MPAccording to a senior official and two ruling coalition MLAs.
Türkiye's Supreme Court gave this decision in October can atlayHis continued imprisonment since being elected to Parliament from a prison cell in the May general election violated his right to hold office.
Atalay was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2022 for trying to overthrow Erdogan's government by organizing national protests in 2013. The 46-year-old lawyer has denied the allegations.
He appealed to the Constitutional Court using an “individual application” – a mechanism created by a 2010 constitutional amendment that allows citizens to petition the top court directly on rights issues.
The Constitutional Court's decision to free them triggered a judicial crisis on 8 November when Turkey's top appeals tribunal – The appellate court – Said she would not recognize the decision and filed a criminal complaint against the judges who made it.
The Appeals Tribunal accused the Constitutional Court of exceeding its jurisdiction by acting as a 'super-appeal body'.
Mehmet Ukum, Erdogan's chief adviser and vice chairman of the Presidential Legal Policy Council, defended the Court of Cassation's move on social media platform X in November and criticized the Constitutional Court for taking an “unconstitutional decision”.
According to a senior government official and two ruling party lawmakers, Erdogan and his allies are uneasy about the influence exercised by the court, particularly through its widespread use of “individual applications.”
Erdogan's office and the Justice Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
The senior Turkish official, who like the other two sources requested anonymity to speak freely, said the court had established “a unique sphere of power” through these rulings.
Official figures show the court has processed more than 500,000 individual applications alleging fundamental rights violations by authorities since September 2012 and ruled in more than 484,000 cases.
In November, Erdogan said he would play the role of “referee” in the judicial crisis and that legislation could be used to resolve the impasse between the Constitutional Court and the Court of Appeals.
“It is not difficult to make legal arrangements regarding individual applications,” he said, without giving further details.
The government is considering options, the senior official said: these include setting up a “Turkish Human Rights Court” that would deal with individual applications separately.
The system of Constitutional Court and individual applications will remain in place in some form or the other, the official said. “But rules are necessary,” the person said.
The Constitutional Court and the Court of Cassation declined to comment for this story.
One of the two AK Party MPs, who requested anonymity, said the Constitutional Court should have clearly defined jurisdiction so as not to overlap with the Court of Cassation and exceed its jurisdiction.
inter-court standoff
He told Reuters that Atalay's lawyers hoped he would be released after the Constitutional Court ruled for a second time in December. But on December 27, the Istanbul Penal Court refused to release him for the second time and transferred the case again to the Court of Cassation, claiming that reevaluation by the appeals court was mandatory.
In January, Turkey's parliament – ​​dominated by Erdogan's supporters – stripped Atalay of his parliamentary status. Atalay, who is in jail, declined to comment.
The European Commission criticized “serious backslides” on democratic standards, human rights and judicial independence in its annual report on Turkey's stalled EU membership bid in November. It criticized the lack of transparency and qualifications in the appointment of judges and prosecutors.
Erdogan's government, which restored the judiciary after a failed 2016 coup, says the system complies with international standards.
Bertil Oder, a professor of constitutional law at Koç University in Istanbul, said the Constitutional Court's popularity among the public has increased since it began ruling on individual applications.
“The more it explains rights, the stronger its bond with citizens becomes,” he said.
While Germany's Federal Constitutional Court received about 5,000 applications in 2022, Turkey's Constitutional Court received about 110,000 applications that year, official data on their websites show.
Many of its decisions have angered Ankara.
In January of 2018, the Constitutional Court ordered the release of jailed journalist Sahin Alpay, who was accused of attempting to overthrow the government in a failed 2016 coup. He denied the allegations.
Then-Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said at the time that the ruling had exceeded the limits set in the constitution for reviewing individual applications.
A Turkish criminal court refused to release Alpay until March 2018 – after the Constitutional Court ruled for the second time that his rights had been violated.
pro-government decisions
However, the court has ruled in favor of the government on many major issues. In 2016, it rejected an appeal by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) to repeal emergency laws imposed after a coup attempt.
Kerem Altiparmak, a prominent Turkish human rights lawyer at the Ankara Bar Association, says the move strengthened Erdogan's sweeping powers.
“The importance of the court lies in presenting the image to the international community that Turkey has a functioning judiciary,” he said. “It does not resolve any important matter; rather, it goes to the heart of the problem.”
The court in 2017 unanimously rejected a request to repeal Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code, which regulates the crime of “insulting the President”.
And last year, it rejected a case to strike down the government's 2022 media law, which penalized journalists and social media users with up to three years in prison for spreading “misinformation.” The detailed judgment has not yet been shared on the court's website.
bid to close the party
In 2021, Cassation Court prosecutor Bekir Sahin filed a lawsuit at the Constitutional Court to shut down the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). They accused it of links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU. The HDP has denied any connection.
Turkey has banned many political parties, including pro-Kurdish ones.
Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Erdogan-ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the fourth-largest party in parliament, accused the court of bias after the Court of Cassation rejected a request to halt treasury support paid to the HDP in March 2023. . The Constitutional Court ruled that the necessary conditions for a funding freeze had not been met.
Ayça Akpek Sené, a lawyer and vice president of the CHP's disciplinary board, which has the power to ban members from the party, says the MHP is using the case to justify Bahceli's call to close the court.
“Despite its shortcomings, the court offers a different perspective,” Sene said. “Erdogan's government is unable to manipulate this to their advantage and that is troubling to them.”
Bahceli and the MHP did not respond to requests for comment.

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