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Erdoğan blasts judge who was kicked by AK Party lawmaker

ISTANBUL - 12.01.2014 15:57:11

Turkish prime minister has heavily criticized a judge who was hit with a flying kick by a Turkish ruling party lawmaker during a parliamentary commission debate on Saturday, accusing him of trying to make a statement without having an authority.

Erdoğan told reporters while inspecting an under construction mosque in a Çamlıca hill on the Anatolian side of İstanbul that brawls among deputies make the situation tense during sessions. He said it is wrong that people without an authority comes into the Justice Commission to make a statement, referring to Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu, the chairman of the Judges and Prosecutors Association (YARSAV) and a Çankırı judge.

“First of all, you have no authority to speak there. Who are you? Know your limits. The place you need to talk is a different place,” Hürriyet daily quoted Erdoğan as saying.

Erdoğan described Eminağaoğlu and people of his ilk as a “militant” and not a men of law.

Turkish parliamentarians threw punches and water bottles during the debate about government control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors, as a feud over the ruling party's handling of a corruption scandal intensified.

One deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Zeyid Aslan leapt on a table and launched a flying kick as others wrestled and punched at each other, with document folders, plastic water bottles and even an iPad flying through the air.

When the scuffles broke out, parliament's justice commission was gathering to discuss a draft bill from the AK Party to give it more say over the judiciary.

The fight erupted when Eminağaoğlu arrived with a petition arguing the bill was anti-constitutional, but was not allowed to speak.

"If I am being kicked at here as a representative of the judiciary, all prosecutors and judges will be trampled on when this law passes," a ruffled Eminağaoğlu said after the ruckus.

Speaking about the proposal, Erdoğan said the parliamentary commission has concluded that the government proposal to restructure the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) is not in violation of the constitution. Erdoğan said the opposition has an opportunity to ask the Constitutional Court to reverse the decision after it is adopted by the Parliament.

Erdoğan has cast the wide-ranging corruption investigation, which poses one of the biggest challenges of his 11-year rule, as an attempted "judicial coup" meant to undermine him in the run-up to local and presidential elections this year.

He has responded by purging the police force of hundreds of officers and seeking tighter control over the judiciary.

One of Turkey's most senior legal figures joined the opposition on Friday in warning the AK Party that its proposed reforms to the HSYK would breach the constitution.

Ahmet Hamsici, deputy chairman of the HSYK, earlier said greater government control over the body responsible for naming judges and prosecutors would contravene the basic principle of the separation of powers.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, who was in the room when the punches were thrown, hinted that the AK Party might back down if the opposition agreed instead to changes to parts of the constitution governing the judiciary.

"If all political parties agree on a change in articles and announce it, it could be we withdraw this draft law," he said.

However, Bozdağ's comments drew jeers of disapproval from opposition deputies, and a senior source in the ruling party said Erdoğan had no intention of backing down on the bill.

"The AKP is trying to make its fascist regulation through violence. We won't allow this," said Muslim Sarı, a deputy for the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), who said an iPad had been thrown at him during the scuffles.

The recent developments have helped drive the lira currency to new lows and shaken investor confidence in a country whose stability has largely derived from Erdoğan's strong grip on power.

But it is the government's reaction, seeking tighter control over courts, police and even the Internet, that could do deeper long-term damage, not least to Turkey's ambitions to join the European Union and to its relations with Washington. Both are already critical of its human rights record.

The US State Department said this week it supported the Turkish people's desire for a transparent legal system, while the EU warned Turkey, a candidate for membership of the bloc, about threats to judicial independence. (Cihan/TZ)

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