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The Judiciary Conflict in Turkey Escalates: Constitutional Court’s Authority Under Fire

If the judiciary were 100% under AKP control, decisions would come from a single hand. Naturally, the crisis has turned into a conflict; guns are firing. I am talking about the storm that broke out after the Constitutional Court’s decision on a “violation of rights” for TİP deputy Can Atalay.

Yesterday, something important happened: The Court of Cassation’s 3rd Penal Chamber not only told the Constitutional Court to “know its place,” but also filed a criminal complaint against its members.

To understand, let’s go back to the beginning: Can Atalay, who was detained from the Gezi protests, was nominated as a parliamentary candidate from a “selectable position.”

His candidacy was finalized on April 20, and five days later… Istanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court sentenced Atalay to 18 years in prison in the Gezi trial. Since the decision was not finalized, Atalay entered the election and was elected as a deputy from Hatay. The judicial process should have been stopped immediately and he should have been released, but that didn’t happen.

His lawyers took the issue to the Court of Cassation twice, and the 3rd and 4th chambers respectively rejected the release requests. As a last resort, they exercised their right to an individual application to the Constitutional Court on July 20.

Just a few days before the opening of the Grand National Assembly, on September 28, the Court of Cassation’s 3rd Penal Chamber upheld the Gezi convictions and the decision became final. The decision was to be read in the general assembly of the Grand National Assembly, which would result in the loss of Can Atalay’s membership. Eyes turned to the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court acted quickly this time and ruled on October 25 that Can Atalay’s “right to be elected” and “individual liberty and security” rights had been violated.

The first instance court, namely Istanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court, hesitated to comply with the Constitutional Court’s orders to “do what’s necessary” twice, and passed the ball to the Court of Cassation’s 3rd Penal Chamber, which “upheld the decision.” According to the Constitution (Article 153), it is a constitutional obligation to comply with the decisions of the Constitutional Court and a letter of release should have been issued to the prison immediately; it didn’t happen, they couldn’t do it.

Strangely, eyes turned to the Court of Cassation’s 3rd Chamber, wondering what it would do. Saying “I don’t comply with the decision” would not have been surprising according to the current norms in Turkey. Instead of doing so, it claimed that the Constitutional Court violated the Constitution, exceeded its authority, and filed a criminal complaint against the members of the Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, it’s unnecessary to remind of the established rule that “The Constitutional Court looks at constitutional violations. The Grand Chamber, which is the Constitutional Court, judges its members.” The issue has been off track for a while anyway.

Moreover, an unprecedented fight is taking place: The Court of Cassation’s 3rd Penal Chamber not only claimed that the Constitutional Court constantly threatened them with petitions during the appeal review but also said, “They act like a supervisory authority even though there is no subordinate-superior relationship between us.” They even went further, using the expressions, “According to Constitution Article 154, I am the final court of appeal for decisions and judgments made by first instance courts.”

Call it a “major constitutional crisis” or a “coup against the constitution”… Another threshold has been crossed in Ankara. The Constitutional Court has been completely finished, and fingers have been wagged at its members. I hardly think so, but anyone with even a tiny bit of honor wouldn’t stay there for a minute and would hang up their robe. Of course, that’s not going to happen.

The issue is not just about the AKP or Erdoğan alone. If it were, the Court of Cassation and the Constitutional Court wouldn’t be singing from different hymn sheets. Indeed, AKP Deputy Chairman Hayati Yazıcı immediately issued a message, saying, “We are experiencing an event that should never happen. It’s a pity, such a pity. The powers that make up the state solve problems. They cannot trip each other up.” Yazıcı is the AKP’s Vice President of Political and Legal Affairs and has been Erdoğan’s lawyer for many years. He’s in the know.

The issue is not about rights and justice.

If it were, it would have been necessary to speak up when two members of the Constitutional Court were handcuffed and arrested on July 16, 2016. That train has passed.

The subject is not about a “coup against the constitution” or anything. There is a big fight and conflict within the state. Until now, parties that have been kicking each other under the table have started to fire their guns.

The reason I choose my words like this is that a “deadly” struggle is taking place. The sickness in the Palace is slowly spreading everywhere.

Things in Ankara have been out of control for a while, and it’s only just becoming clear.

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