Supreme Court of Appeals President İsmail Rüştü Cirit said on May 30 that the criticism was based on “groundless reports and comments that does not comply with journalism ethics.”
“My attendance at trips and meetings, which have been mentioned in groundless reports, is a result of accepting invitations extended personally by official organizations and people as a requirement of state protocol due to the office I represent ... Being together with those who represent our state and our nation during these official travels and programs should be seen as extremely natural” Cirit said in a written statement.
Along with Council of State President Zerrin Güngör and Court of Accounts President Recai Akyel, Cirit recently accompanied Erdoğan during his visits to the Black Sea province of Rize and the Central Anatolian province of Kırşehir, listening to his speeches in the front seats allocated according to the rules of state protocol.
Calling for their resignation for bringing judicial independence into question, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the top judges, saying they had “dealt the biggest blow to justice.”
“During these travels and programs, any harmful act to the Supreme Court of Appeals, which I proudly represent, is out of the question” Cirit stated.
He added that Kırşehir is his colleague Güngör's hometown, which is why she was “joyful” and applauded Erdoğan when the latter heralded the opening of a dorm for female students there.
“I have difficulty understanding the distortion of my joining in the joy of our Council of State president,” Cirit said.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ also slammed the criticism over the weekend.
“It is indecent to distorting the applause of the presidents of the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals regarding the good news the president gave … as if [it were] applause for criticism of the CHP” Bozdağ said.
Gov't: Nothing to ‘find strange'
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş also defended the top judges, justifying their attendance on presidential visits by citing the “hierarchical order of the state.”
“It is not possible to understand why this matter is being politicized to this extent. After all, judicial organizations and institutions in the Republic of Turkey are ultimately attached to the office of the presidency in which is the highest office of the state of the Republic of Turkey,” Kurtulmuş told reporters on May 30.
“What's more, judiciary members, high judiciary members, and presidents all attend meetings if the president calls” Kurtulmuş said at a press conference following a weekly cabinet meeting.
“The president attends their meetings and may chair them. The attendance of judicial heads at a meeting where our president is present, or their having contact with our president in a civilian environment, should not be found strange” he added.