Turkish crackdown on judiciary hurts bid to join EU
TURKEY began the biggest purge of the judiciary in the country's history yesterday, firing and reassigning senior judges and prosecutors, despite warnings that the actions were damaging the country's attempt to join the European Union.
The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, removed 96 judges and prosecutors from their posts, and fired or reassigned a further 470 policemen in the capital Ankara. So far, the government has reassigned or fired at least 2,000 police and prosecutors from their posts in recent weeks.
Mr Erdogan was in Brussels promoting Turkey's EU membership bid to officials, who see the sackings, and a controversial new bill that would give the executive authority over the judiciary, as eroding the country's rule of law, a key criteria for admission.
Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, urged Mr Erdogan "not to backtrack on achievements and to assure that the judiciary is able to function without discrimination or preference, in a transparent and impartial manner".
The bill is Mr Erdogan's response to a corruption scandal that he has dismissed as a "foreign plot" ascribed to the influential Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally.
The prime minister says Mr Gulen is trying to oust him using a "politicised" corruption inquiry that targeted Mr Erdogan's closest allies and his son.
"The judiciary should not go beyond its defined mission and mandate. This is what we're doing. Anything else is misinformation and disinformation," Mr Erdogan said in a news conference.
If Mr Erdogan pushes the bill – which is being discussed in parliament – into law, its detractors are likely to appeal to the constitutional or supreme court. However, the law would be active in that time, allowing the prime minister to stuff the judiciary with allies. (© Daily Telegraph, London)