Fule’s letters moderate Turkey’s judicial reform bill

 The EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule has sent two letters which have influenced Turkey’s decision to suspend part of a highly controversial bill which affects the independence of its judiciary, Turkish daily ‘Radikal’ reported yesterday.

Fule’s sent the second of two letters to Ankara on Monday, asking for more time to discuss the draft bill before it becomes law.

Fule’s first letter, sent on 14th January to EU Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (Egemen Bagis’ recent replacement), which commented that “altering the law would negatively influence the independence and impartiality of Turkey’s judiciary and the separation of powers”.

His second letter, dated 20th January contained 12 specific points itemising criticisms and concerns over the planned reform bill which alters the power structure of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), says the report.

Fule pointed out that the increase of powers in the hands of the justice minister would undermine EU legislation. “I am still of the opinion that [the bill] allows the justice minister to almost control the HSYK. Therefore, this causes serious concerns regarding the independence and neutrality of the judiciary and the separation of powers in Turkey,” Fule said.

The EU Enlargement minister repeated his demands that Ankara consult Brussels before shaping the draft bill. “Before decisions are made and the law is approved, Turkish society needs more time and more comprehension and dialogue,” his letter read.

Fule had asked for a broader debate concerning the corruption investigation which began on 17th December, 2013 which should include the issue of mass replacement of police officers of all ranks.

Calling for more transparency, Fule’s letter said:

“This draft bill is only one aspect of our current agenda. There are many developments such as the relocations of police officers and the carrying out of graft probes that we should discuss and exchange opinions on”.

Following receipt of Fule’s second letter, Prime Minister Erdogan gave assurances to EU President Herman van Rompuy and EU Commission head, Jose Manuel Barroso over the government’s handling of the corruption probe and the judicial bill.

Erdogan announced yesterday (Saturday) that some parts of the bill would be suspended for now and could be submitted to parliament “if necessary”.

On his return to Turkey from Brussels, Erdogan told reporters that he hoped that he had convinced EU leaders about the ruling AKP’s position that the investigations had been initiated by a “parallel state.”

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