Just as the now deposed Muslim Brotherhood leader of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi did, Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan (and ardent Muslim Brotherhood supporter) tries to give himself virtually total control of the judiciary.
REUTERS Turkish parliamentarians threw punches and water bottles during a debate on Saturday about government control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors, as a feud over the ruling party’s handling of a corruption scandal intensified. One MP leapt on a table and launched a flying kick as others wrestled and punched at each other, with document folders, plastic water bottles and even an iPad flying through the air, a Reuters correspondent in the room said.
When the scuffles broke out, parliament’s justice commission was gathering to discuss a draft bill from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party to give it more say over the judiciary. The fight erupted when a representative of a judicial association arrived with a petition arguing the bill was anti-constitutional, but was not allowed to speak, witnesses said.
“If I am being kicked at here as a representative of the judiciary, all prosecutors and judges will be trampled on when this law passes,” a ruffled Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu, head of the YARSAV professional association, said after the ruckus.
Erdogan has cast the wide-ranging corruption investigation, which poses one of the biggest challenges of his 11-year rule, as an attempted “judicial coup” meant to undermine him in the run-up to local and presidential elections this year. He has responded by purging the police force of hundreds of officers and seeking tighter control over the judiciary.
More than 10,000 people attended a rally in Ankara organised by a labour union to denounce corruption, waving placards with slogans including “Bye Bye Tayyip” and “Tayyip’s money is safe is shoe boxes”, a reference to TV images of hoards of cash found in suspects’ homes during the corruption investigation. Some handed out fake dollar bills bearing Erdogan’s image.
One of Turkey’s most senior legal figures joined the opposition on Friday in warning the AK Party that its proposed reforms to the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) would breach the constitution. Ahmet Hamsici, deputy chairman of the HSYK, said greater government control over the body responsible for naming judges and prosecutors would contravene the basic principle of the separation of powers.
But it is the government’s reaction, seeking tighter control over courts, police and even the Internet, that could do deeper long-term damage, not least to Turkey’s ambitions to join the European Union.