Turkish parliament gives government more control over judiciary

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 15, 2014 4:37 AM

By Gulsen Solaker and Tulay Karadeniz

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's parliament approved a law giving the government more control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors on Saturday, after a heated debate and a brawl in which an opposition lawmaker was hospitalized.

The battle for control of the Higher Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the body which appoints senior members of the judiciary, lies at the heart of a feud between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen, whose followers say they number in the millions, has built up influence in the police and judiciary over decades. Erdogan, head of the ruling AK Party, blames him for unleashing a corruption investigation he sees as designed to unseat him.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Ozcan Yeniceri criticized the HSYK bill, saying it was aimed at "meeting the needs of the AK Party" to impede the graft investigation in which dozens of prominent business people, the sons of three cabinet ministers, and state officials were questioned.

The government has reassigned or dismissed thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors since the graft scandal erupted on December 17.

The decision to approve the law came after a night of fierce debate and a brawl which left one opposition member of parliament with a bloody nose. Local media reported that Ali Ihsan Kokturk, MP for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), was hospitalized with a broken nose.

The debate lasted from 1400 (1200 GMT) on Friday and finished at 1000 on Saturday, with 210 members voting in support of the bill and 28 voting against.

CHP had said on Thursday it would appeal the bill in the Constitutional Court if it was approved in parliament.

(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Dasha Afanasieva; Editing by Pravin Char)