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27 Dec, 2013 19:17

Turkish court blocks govt attempt to control judiciary

Turkish court blocks govt attempt to control judiciary

A Turkish court has blocked a government attempt to force police and prosecutors to disclose investigations to their superiors. The move comes amid a high-profile graft scandal that has brought down members of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s cabinet.

The Council of State, Turkey’s top administrative court, barred the regulation on Friday. The government’s attempt had been slammed by Erdogan’s critics as a way to stifle the corruption probe involving businessmen and some high-profile figures, including the sons of three ministers.

A lawsuit against the controversial regulation had been filed to the Council by the Ankara Bar Association.

The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) also accused the document of being unconstitutional and violating the principle of the separation of powers.

The chamber chairman of the Council personally reviewed the case instead of handing it over to a subordinate judge, as is typically done, bianet.org reported.

Just one day earlier, a prosecutor overseeing the inquiry said the country’s security forces were interfering with the probe, preventing arrests, disobeying court orders, and letting suspects off the hook. After the case was taken from him, Muammer Akkas issued a written statement revealing the details of the case against businessmen and officials’ involvement in bribery and corruption.

Turkey's public "should be aware that I, as public prosecutor, have been prevented from launching an investigation," Akkas said in a statement to local media.

Police ignored court orders to detain the suspects and search their apartments.

A man helps build a barricade as demonstrators clash with riot police (unseen) during a protest against corruption in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul on December 25, 2013. (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

"By means of the police force, the judiciary was subjected to open pressure, and the execution of court orders was obstructed," Akkas said.

"A crime has been committed throughout the chain of command ... Suspects have been allowed to take precautions, flee and tamper with the evidence," the prosecutor added.

In response to the charges, Turkey's chief prosecutor, Turhan Colakkadi, said that Akkas was removed from the investigation because he leaked information to the media and failed to report the progress of the investigation to his superiors.

The regulation requiring police investigators to share their findings with their superiors was issued on December 21. The move came shortly after the corruption scandal erupted on December 17, which led to the detention of ministers’ sons, as well as the resignations of their fathers. This was followed by a major government reshuffle.

On Wednesday, Erdogan replaced the outgoing ministers with his loyalists. Ten of the 26 ministers in the cabinet have been replaced.

The outgoing environment minister, Erdogan Bayraktar, told NTV television that he had been pressured to quit, stating, "I believe the prime minister should also resign."

Adding a new twist to the drama, Turkish media published on Thursday what it claimed to be a subpoena issued to Bilal Erdogan - one of the premier's two sons - to testify as a suspect in the corruption investigation. However, the authenticity of the document could not be immediately verified, Reuters reported.

Demonstrators run away as they clash with riot police (unseen) during a protest against corruption in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul on December 25, 2013. (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

As public outrage over the developing corruption scandal continues to grow, Erdogan has denied any wrongdoing and has denounced the investigation as a plot orchestrated by foreign and Turkish forces to discredit his government ahead of local elections in March.

On Friday, Erdogan criticized the HSYK over its stance against the governmental decree.

“The HSYK has broken the law,” he said, as quoted by Hurriyet Daily News. He said the Board violated the constitution by making a statement on the change of procedures of law while the case was still continuing in the Administrative Court.