Erdogan Clashes With Chief Justice Over Court Freedoms

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hit back at accusations from one of the nation’s most senior judges that he presided over an assault on judicial independence during his time as prime minister.

Erdogan, who became president last week after nearly a decade as premier, today warned judges in a written statement against becoming politicized and losing their impartiality. The rebuke was triggered by Supreme Court Chief Justice Ali Alkan’s criticism of Erdogan’s record in protecting court freedoms.

In moving hundreds of judges and prosecutors to different posts during a corruption scandal that embroiled his cabinet and family, and enacting laws to curb the judiciary, Erdogan’s government undermined the independence of Turkey’s courts, Alkan said.

“The recent attempts to interfere in the judicial process will not resolve problems but will intensify them instead,” Alkan told the nation’s top judiciary staff in a televised meeting in Ankara. He cited a February move to restructure Turkey’s top law body at the height of the graft investigation.

Erdogan dismissed the corruption allegations as an attempt to overthrow him, saying they were orchestrated by followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally. He vowed to remove Gulen followers from the state bureaucracy, including courts and the police force. Since then, security forces have detained hundreds of police officers, including 33 today, some of whom played central roles in the corruption investigation.

In an apparent reference to Gulen’s movement, Erdogan today urged vigilance against efforts to “paralyze” courts, and asked them to show no tolerance to “attempts to take possession” of the judiciary.

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