Union of Turkish Bar Associations files complaint against pro-gov’t outlets for targeting Constitutional Court justices

The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) has filed a criminal complaint against pro-government daily Yeni Şafak and A Haber TV for targeting the Constitutional Court justices who ruled that jailed TİP MP Atalay’s rights were violated.

Duvar English

The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) on Nov. 13 announced that they filed a criminal complaint against pro-government daily Yeni Şafak and TV channel A Haber for targeting and accusing the Constitutional Court (AYM) and its justices regarding the ruling on imprisoned Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) parliamentarian Can Atalay.

In a statement, the TBB said the pictures of nine AYM justices, who found rights violations in Atalay’s case, were shared in their reportings and they “were targeted by having their names conspicuously written in bold.”

The two pro-government outlets presented the reportings in question with the headlines of “Who are the nine members who made a 'violation' decision in Can Atalay’s case?,” and “The Constitutional Court's decision paved the way for FETÖ and PKK!,” referring to the Gülen network referred to by the government as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

“The statements included in the reportings are accusations that disregard and discredit the function of the Constitutional judiciary and its position in the legal system,” the union said.

The union also demanded a lawsuit be opened against the outlets on charges of “spreading misleading information to the public,” “defamation,” “attempting to influence a fair trial,” and “insulting the Turkish Nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, the institutions and organs of the State.”

What has happened?

Atalay, 47, was sentenced to 18 years in prison last year after being convicted of trying to overthrow the government by organizing nationwide protests in 2013, along with Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala and six others.

The AYM on Oct. 25 ruled that imprisoned TİP MP Can Atalay’s "right to vote and be elected” and “right to personal security and liberty" were violated and ordered the lower court to release him. The Criminal Court of Istanbul did not release Atalay, but referred the case to the Court of Cassation, arguing the AYM’s ruling was not related to the criminal court’s verdict.

The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation on Nov. 8 refused to comply with the AYM ruling and filed a criminal complaint against AYM justices who ruled for Atalay’s release, claiming they violated the constitution and exceeded their authorities.

The legal experts and the opposition deemed the move “a judicial coup” and “a coup attempt against the constitutional order,” reminding the 153rd Article of the Constitution, which reads “The decisions of the Constitutional Court are final. Decisions of the Constitutional Court shall be binding on the legislative, executive, and judicial organs, on the administrative authorities, and on persons and corporate bodies.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç and government ally far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) executives claimed that the judicial crisis showed the need for a new constitution.

The government and its allies are expected to propose a change in the structure of the Constitutional Court, diminishing its power, as the preparation is ongoing for a new constitutional draft.