A group of Turkish Cypriot lawyers and politicians have slammed Ankara for undermining judicial independence by harshly criticizing a top court ruling on closing Quran courses.
"If the judicial processes are not carried out in an independent manner, the rulings issued would be left to the hands of political authorities and they would serve ideologies instead of justice," they said in a statement on April 19 in front of the Supreme Court in Nicosia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Vice President Fuat Oktay and Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun criticized the Constitutional Court over its decision to close Quran courses, with Erdoğan saying, “It is impossible for us to accept this. The head of the Constitutional Court should learn secularism.”
The president and prime minister of Turkish Cyprus have subsequently said that there will be no ban on Quran courses.
"Turkish Cyprus is a Muslim country, and an instance of closing the Quran courses is out of the question," Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersan Saner said on April 17.
He went on to say that the case filed with the Constitutional Court concerned whether the Religious Affairs Commission has the authority to organize courses for memorizing Quran. The court ruling said that it was not possible for an institution other than the state to organize such courses.
The lawyers and politicians on April 19 held a banner that read, "We will continue to protect judicial independence" during their press statement.
"The statements made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and various other officials have turned into a heavy attack on our judicial body," Turkish Cypriot Bar Association head Hasan Esendağlı said.
"The provocative statements that were released based on fake news are aimed at inciting hatred and lynching in the society. The court ruling was used as an excuse to attack the basic values that form the Turkish Cypriot society. Hence, it's very important for all segments of the society to react in order to protect the superiority of law and justice based on truth," the lawyers said.
They also slammed Turkish Cypriot leaders for not releasing statements to defend judicial independence.
"This is not something that can be explained to the generations to come," they said.