Crisis in top Turkish judiciary outbreaks amid conflict among two main factions: Report

DW Turkish reported that the crisis between the Court of Cassation and the Constitutional Court outbroke amid the ongoing conflict between the far-right MHP faction in the former and the Islamic İskenderpaşa faction in the latter.

Duvar English

Turkey’s Court of Cassation’s refusal to refusal to comply with the Constitutional Court (AYM) ruling regarding the release of jailed Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) deputy Can Atalay has been a signal of long-standing feud between the factions in top judicial bodies, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported.

While the court members in the country’s top appeals court has been affiliated with the ruling People’s Alliance far-right partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), there are justified from the tradition of Islamic İskenderpaşa cult in the AYM according to reporter.

Accordingly, the panel of the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation that delivered the Atalay verdict was specially selected. Although the chamber has 18 members, the head of the chamber assigned three members close to the nationalist wing and one member close to the presidency to handle the Atalay case. 

DW reported that the other members, who could have expressed a contrary opinion, were not aware of this decision.

Some members of the Court of Cassation, who DW Turkish interviewed, expressed their discomfort with the AYM in the recent period. The judges in the top court of appeals stated that the AYM began to percived itself as “the supreme court through the individual applications.”

The judges underscored that the AYM “overstepped” its jurisdiction and “began to replace the Parliament to create new norms.”

However, there are also members of the Court of Cassation who did not think like the majority. Some of the members believe that the chamber's failure to comply with the ruling was wrong, even though they agree with the criticisms leveled against the AYM. 

A crucial issue that put the AYM and the Court of Cassation at odds was the former’s cancellation of the provision of the law that provided for an additional increase in the salaries of the members of the Court of Cassation and the Council of State. This decision of the Constitutional Court caused a great reaction in the latter.

Also the influence of İskenderpaşa cult’s on AYM created some grave discomfort among nationalist factions in Court of Cassation.

İskenderpaşa cult was a faction inside the political Islamists National Vision (Milli Görüş in Turkish) movement whom President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was also belong to. There have been various reports that the Hak-Yol Foundation, which is belonged to this sect and part of the team that formed the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) core cadre, held strong positions in the judiciary.

The crisis deepened in the 2023 Constitutional Court presidential elections when former president Zühtü Arslan was reelected after the support of judges affiliated with the Hak-Yol tradition  instead of the candidate supported by Erdoğan.

The fact that the decision to keep Atalay in prison after his election as an MP was taken by names close to the MHP and it was interpreted as an attack attempt against the Hak-Yol tradition in the judiciary.

Also, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli deemed AYM as “the backyard of the separatist terrorist organisation” when he was reacting its decision to unblock the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Treasury aid and called for its closure. 

The members of the Court of Cassation who support the decision to resist to the AYM’s ruling pointed to the Parliament as the solution to the problem. “Limiting the powers of the Constitutional Court on individual applications" would prevent similar crises in the future according to them.

Making a statement for the first time after the crisis, President Erdoğan said, "Probably no one can deny that the Court of Cassation is a high court. At this point, unfortunately, the Constitutional Court has started to make many mistakes one after another. This seriously upsets us.”