Power struggle in Turkey’s Justice Ministry prompts resignations - columnist

Two top members of the body that appoints judges and prosecutors in Turkey have resigned due to a power struggle within the Justice Ministry between its minister, Abdülhamit Gül, and a clique called the Istanbul group, Sibel Hürtaş, a columnist for the ArtıGerçek news-site, said on Friday.

The Istanbul group was first mentioned in Turkey’s opposition media after a columnist writing for the pro-government Sabah newspaper last month accused Gül of allowing members of the shadowy Gülen movement, a religious group blamed for a failed coup attempt in 2016, to re-infiltrate the judiciary. 

The Gülen movement was once allied to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and its members rose in influence in the years after his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. But the two wings of Turkey’s Islamist movement fell out with Erdoğan accusing the Gülenists of setting up a state within the state by infiltrating the judiciary, civil service, police and military. 

Yunus Nadi Kolukısa, the head of the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), a body inside the Justice Ministry that decides on the appointment, removal and transfer of judges and prosecutors, and Fuzuli Aydoğdu, the board’s general secretary, both resigned on Thursday.

Hürtaş said Gül had pressured the pair to resign as part of the ongoing power struggle inside the ministry.  

“According to the claims, those resignations are a result of an argument between the Istanbul group and Gül. The fact that the two most powerful figures in the HSK lost their seats, shows that at the moment the bureaucracy has won this struggle,” Hürtaş said. 

Some lawyers representing Erdoğan are involved in the Istanbul group, the columnist said. The group supports replacing Gül with Mustafa Doğan İnal, a lawyer who has represented Erdoğan and is also a lawyer for Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, the president’s son-in-law. 

Despite the efforts of the Istanbul group, Gül’s seat in the cabinet seem secure for now as the minister is in charge of an extensive judicial system reform, Hürtaş said.

Ahmet Şık, a journalist and member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said last month that Gül had been targeted by the Pelican group.

The Pelicanists got their name after a document was leaked listing points of contention between Erdoğan and the former prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu. The leak led to Davutoğlu’s resignation in 2016. The document was called “the Pelican file”, a reference to a John Grisham political thriller.

The group is said to be linked to Albayrak, and is believed to operate through Sabah to attack senior figures inside the ruling party.