Former Turkish president Gül praises top court’s battle for independence

Abdullah Gül, former Turkish President and founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), praised Turkey’s Constitutional Court in its efforts to remain independent of government control, news website Diken reported on Thursday.

He said that the court had been "the institution that lost the least prestige in recent years".

The recent case of Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu has brought the independence of the constitutional court into doubt, with National Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli suggesting that the court’s structure should be changed. The AKP supported the MHP’s call.

Berberoğlu was sentenced to 25 years in jail after he allegedly gave a video to the newspaper Cumhuriyet which allegedly showed weapons being sent to Syria by the Turkish intelligence agency, MİT. Berberoğlu was released from prison in 2018, but in June he was stripped of his parliamentary status and jailed along with two deputies from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).

The Constitutional Court ordered a retrial of Berberoğlu’s conviction last month, but the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court rejected the retrial order. The 14th High Criminal Court sits below the Constitutional Court, and is supposed to follow the higher court's rulings.

Gül said Turkey’s constitution was binding for legislative and judicial bodies to abide by the Constitutional Court's decisions.

“If you do not comply with the Constitutional Court because of a ruling that you do not like, another person will not comply for another reason tomorrow,” Gül said. “Chaos should not be enabled.”

Another row erupted this week after Constitutional Court member Engin Yıldırım shared a photograph of the court building with the caption: “The lights are on.” This prompted a backlash from pro-AKP media and members of the government, some of whom accused Yıldırım of calling for a military coup.