- Turkish Constitutional Court has violated the constitution in a decision that paved the way for the release of two jailed Cumhuriyet journalists, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told journalists during a visit to the Turkish Embassy resident in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
“My statements have nothing to do with being loyal to the constitution. Yes, there is a violation of constitution there. But it is not me who violated the constitution, it is those who are at decision-making level of the constitutional court. They have made this violation blatantly,” said Erdoğan citing the release of Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and its Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gül.
Dündar and Gül were released pending trial early on Feb. 26 as the constitutional court ruled that their 92-day imprisonment over charges of terrorism was a “violation of rights.”
Regarding the decision of the court, Erdoğan said that he “[did] not accept or respect” the ruling of the constitutional court and vowed not to abide by it. The statements, which came as he was leaving for a West Africa visit on Feb. 28, have sparked huge criticism on Erdoğan's loyalty to the constitution.
“It was wrong that the constitutional court has put itself in the position of a primary court. Did the judicial process end? No. You [constitutional court] are intervening when the judicial process is still ongoing and taking such a step to taking over responsibility,” Erdoğan said March 2, adding that what Dündar's and Gül's cases should be regarded as espionage cases.
“Yet, we are talking about an espionage incident, not an ordinary incident. This is not something that can be taken lightly. This is an attempt to disclose the steps taken by the national intelligence organization [MİT] toward Bayırbucak Turkmens [in Syria]. Those who attempted this, including the prosecutor and the soldiers are in the jail now... While this is the situation, they say the measures taken about this issue is a violation of the freedom of thought,” Erdoğan said.
Dündar and Gül had been arrested “pre-trial” following their May 2015 news stories which covered the MİT trucks supposedly carrying “aid” to Syrian Turkmens.
Erdoğan also answered the journalists' questions regarding the drafting of the new constitution and snap elections that are speculated to stand ahead of Turkey. “
“I do not support snap elections. There may be extraordinary situations; that is another issue. The nation sees what the political parties are doing about the constitution. It will also be seen who is running away in this constitution drafting period. Even if the opposition does not support it, the ruling party may bring a constitution draft to the parliament. It may pass or not pass. But if the 330 [number of deputy votes needed for the draft to go for a referendum] is reached, I have no doubts, the nation will take care of it,” Erdoğan said.