Main opposition leader recalls Brunson case after being accused of judicial interference by Erdoğan

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Nov. 25 accused the main opposition CHP of meddling in the judiciary and causing judges to cave into their demands while making decisions. In the face of Erdoğan's remarks, CHP chair Kılıçdaroğlu said that it was instead Erdoğan who has been compromising the rule of law in the country and recalled the case of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson.

Main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

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Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has slammed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's accusations that he was trying to influence the judiciary, saying it was instead the president who has been compromising the rule of law in the country.

“It is as if I was the one who said 'Release the U.S. pastor,'” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Nov. 26, referring to Erdoğan's interference in the judiciary to help secure U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson's release in 2018.

Kılıçdaroğlu's comments came after Erdoğan claimed on Nov. 25 that judges were caving into the demands of the opposition while making their decisions. Erdoğan said that the Constitution's 138th article orders judges to be independent in the discharge of their duties and to give their judgments independent of the influence of anyone, including the opposition.

“Does anyone have the right to give you [judges] instructions? I do not have such a right to give you instructions, but nor do the opposition have. When these instructions are being given, why are you not doing anything? I cannot accept the judiciary being silent in the face of steps that are taken,” Erdoğan said, while addressing his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers.

In the face of these remarks, Kılıçdaroğlu recalled that Brunson had been released following Erdoğan's interference in the case due to repeated calls by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Although Erdoğan at the time claimed that the Turkish judiciary had reached the release decision independently, Trump's remarks suggested otherwise.

Brunson, who was been held in Turkey on terrorism charges, was freed after Trump doubled metal tariffs on Turkey, fueling a weakening of the lira, and imposed financial sanctions on key Erdoğan aides involved in the pastor’s case. Following Brunson's release, Trump thanked Erdoğan and said the U.S. government is actively working on the status of imprisoned Americans.

Touching upon this case, Kılıçdaroğlu said: “Erdoğan yesterday made an interesting statement. He says in his remarks addressing judges, 'I am not giving you instructions. There is the 138th article of the Constitution. And therefore, the main opposition party leader cannot give you instructions either.' It is as if I was the one who said, 'Release the U.S. pastor.' It is obvious who gave that order. The person who gave that order to the court and who secured the release is obvious. What he [Erdoğan] is saying has no sense.”