Erdogan rebukes lawyers boycotting judicial ceremony at presidential palace

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends the new judicial year's opening ceremony in Ankara on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 03 September 2019

Erdogan rebukes lawyers boycotting judicial ceremony at presidential palace

  • Many of the bar associations said holding the ceremony in a location linked to the presidency signals a lack of separation of powers and the erosion of judicial independence in Turkey

ANKARA: President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday sharply criticized Turkish lawyers who boycotted a judicial ceremony on the grounds of his presidential palace, saying their method of electing bar association members should be changed.

Last month, at least 19 bar associations representing a vast majority of lawyers across Turkey, including in the three largest cities, said they would boycott the annual opening ceremony of the judicial year because it would be held on the premises of the presidential palace.

Many of the bar associations said holding the ceremony in a location linked to the presidency signals a lack of separation of powers and the erosion of judicial independence in Turkey.

Speaking at the ceremony on Monday, Erdogan said Turkey’s new all-powerful executive presidential system, approved in a referendum last year, did not affect the separation of powers and added that the presidential palace was the people’s home.

“Many of the accusations directed at the president, who is also the head of the executive branch, about the separation of powers under the new system are baseless,” Erdogan said.

“This venue does not belong to me. As I have always said, this venue is the home of the people and all state institutions have the right to easily use it.”

Erdogan added, “I congratulate the chairmen of our Court of Cassation and Turkish Bar’s Association (TBB) on behalf of my people for the strong and democratic stance they showed against this bigoted and provocative imposition.”

Erdogan also said on Monday that the election methods of bar associations were not “in line with representative democracy” and that this was an issue his government would tackle.

TBB Chairman Metin Feyzioglu, previously an outspoken critic of Erdogan and his governments, has come under fire for recently shifting position and appearing closer to the president. He was at Monday’s ceremony for the first time in five years.

“For us, if the question is our nation, the rest is not important. That is why we are here today,” Feyzigolu said in a speech. “We are here today because our citizens have an expectation from us.”

Turkey’s judicial independence has been hotly debated in recent years, especially since a crackdown on the judiciary and other state bodies after the abortive July 2016 coup and the country’s switch to an executive presidency in June last year.

Critics say the courts are under pressure from Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party. The government has repeatedly said the judiciary is independent and makes its own decisions.

“We didn’t attend the opening ceremony held at the palace today because it is as important to us that the judiciary looks independent as much as its actual independence,” Erinc Sagkan, head of the capital Ankara’s bar association, told Reuters.

“An opening ceremony that is held under the domination, the pressure, the roof of the executive powers will bring irreparable damage to the independence of the judiciary.” 


Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

Updated 16 September 2019

Afghan, US forces kill Taliban governors, fighters

  • Joint operations planned to prevent attacks ahead of polls

KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US forces killed two senior Taliban leaders and at least 38 fighters of the hard-line insurgent group in joint airstrikes conducted in northern and western regions of Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The operations, launched on Saturday night, were aimed at foiling attacks planned by the Taliban on Afghan forces, said a senior security official in capital Kabul, adding that clashes have escalated following the collapse of diplomatic talks between the US and the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry in a statement said that the Taliban’s designate governor for northern Samangan province, Mawlavi Nooruddin, was killed along with four fighters in an airstrike in Dara-e-Soof Payeen district.

But the Taliban denied the governor had been killed.

“He (Nooruddin) is alive,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman said in a statement.

HIGHLIGHT

Taliban deny the governor of Samangan province had been killed.

Last week, insurgents killed four Afghan special force members in a car bomb blast.

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day.

In a separate incident, Mullah Sayed Azim, a Taliban designate governor for Anar Dara district in western Farah was killed in a joint Afghan and foreign force raid.

“Sayed Azim was killed along with 34 other insurgents in Anar Dara,” said Mohibullah Mohib, a spokesman for Farah provincial police.

Senior security officials in Kabul said several joint operations will be launched against Taliban and Daesh fighters to prevent attacks on Afghan forces and civilians ahead of the presidential polls on Sept. 28.

Fighting picked up in several parts of Afghanistan last week after US President Donald Trump’s abrupt cancelation of talks with the Taliban aimed at withdrawing US troops and opening the way to end to 18 year-long war in Afghanistan. 

 

Troops for polling day

Afghan officials say around 100,000 members of the country’s security forces are ready for polling day. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Sunday that 72,000 security personnel will be on duty around the 4,942 polling centers across Afghanistan while nearly 30,000 additional troops will serve as reserve units.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said security forces have recently taken back eight districts from the Taliban and that operations are underway to secure around 20 others.