Turkey's top judicial body has harshly criticized a new judicial police regulation, saying that it is in violation of the Turkish Constitution.
The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) said in a statement on Thursday that state institutions and executive offices must act in line with the principle of equality before the law in all of their activities, adding that an independent judiciary is a guarantee for citizens against rulers. The statement noted that the judicial check on rulers for their illegal activities is an essential part of a democratic nation and a state of rule of law.
The HSYK said a regulation that asks police chiefs to notify civil administrative chiefs who have no judicial position about investigations ordered by prosecutors is an open violation of principles of independence of the judiciary and checks and balances as well as openly violating the Turkish Constitution and relevant laws of the Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK).
In an overnight change to police procedure for judicial investigations last week, the government stifled prosecutorial independence by requiring police officers to report to their superiors in all investigations. In the current probe into corruption and bribery, that would have forced the police to inform the interior minister that they were investigating his son.
The government has also removed or reassigned hundreds of police officers involved in the investigation.
On Wednesday, the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office ordered the detention of 30 suspects, including a number of deputies and businessmen. The İstanbul Police Department, which saw an extensive purge of its top officers over the last week, has not complied with the order, however.
Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş, known for his work on sensitive cases like the Ergenekon coup plot and the murder of the Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, was leading the investigation, which is seen as the second round of a graft probe that has shaken Turkey's political establishment.
On Thursday, the separate graft probe he was investigating was taken from Akkaş -- a move that could further cast a shadow over the corruption investigation. He told media that the case was taken from him without any reasons being cited, effectively blocking him from doing his job.
“All my colleagues and the public should know that I have been prevented from doing my duty,” the prosecutor said in a statement sent to media outlets on Thursday.
In the statement, Akkaş said it became a necessity to deliver the statement due to pressure he faced during the investigation he was leading.
Akkaş said the investigation was launched regarding allegations of a criminal organization being formed for tender rigging, bribery, abuse of power, forgery of documents, intimidation and other crimes that involve several well-known figures and some public servants.
He said he submitted search, seizure and detention decisions by a court to the İstanbul Police Department on Wednesday morning in order to collect the pieces of evidence before they are eradicated. Following the order for the operation, Akkaş said he noticed in media and some Internet websites names of the some of the suspects who were supposed to be detained and that the pieces of evidence were being destroyed. On the same day, he added, he noticed that the court decision and the decision to detain the suspects were not carried out despite his meeting with police chiefs who were supposed to take part in the operation in the courthouse at 7:00 p.m.
On Thursday, Akkaş said he learned that the investigation dossier was taken from him without any justification being offered.
“From now on, the responsibility is on the İstanbul chief public prosecutor and deputy chief public prosecutor. All my colleagues and the public should know that a public prosecutor prevented me from conducting the investigation,” Akkaş underlined in the statement.
He described the move as an “open pressure” on the judiciary through the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office as well as security services who are responsible for implementing the decisions of prosecution.
By not implementing the court decisions, Akkaş said, police chiefs committed a crime and an opportunity was given to suspects to take measures, escape or mitigate the evidence.
“Our duty is not to ignore the violation of rights of the nation by fearing and holding back because of pressure but to realize our duty in the best way in a bid to protect the rights of our nation,” the prosecutor stated.
He called on the whole legal community, particularly senior law workers, to defend the independence of the judiciary in “this difficult process.”
The HSYK also warned against damaging the independent judiciary, which it said is an element of modern democracy and the rule of law, saying that statements that would put members of the judiciary under suspicion should be avoided.
It added that it is the HSYK's duty to unveil wrongdoing without violating the independence of the judiciary. The body said it is the expectation of the entire judiciary that all officials, journalists and the public avoid statements that would tarnish the judiciary.
The HSYK also offered assurances that all types of complaints about judges and prosecutors are examined in detail and that relevant disciplinary laws are implemented in this regard.
Ruling AK Party criticizes HSYK announcement, deems it a 'pirate statement'
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) strongly criticized the statement issued by the judicial body, deeming it as "pirate statement." In response to the top judicial body, AK Party Deputy Chairman Mustafa Şentop said judges could deliver statements as individuals but not on behalf of the HSYK.
Noting that only 13 of the 22-member body signed the statement, Şentop likened the HSYK move to those of the military during the Feb. 28 coup period.
"In the past the military used to issue statements, now the HSYK does the same. We shouldn't abuse power of judgeship and prosecution to get political scores," Şentop said, questioning the motive behind the statement.