- The head of Turkey's Constitutional Court has defended a recent ruling on the release of jailed Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, saying its rulings are binding for everyone following criticism from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“Judges are not sacred beings. Court rulings can and should be criticized. For that reason, we respect any kind of criticism over our rulings. However, I condemn the accusations … that we have been taking decisions with instructions,” the head of the Constitutional Court, Zühtü Arslan, said at a legal conference in Ankara.
“Constitutional Court rulings bind everyone and every institution,” Arslan said, noting that neither commendations nor condemnations influence the institution.
“A democratic constitutional state is a state in which legal rules bind the rulers as well as the ruled,” he added.
Erdoğan harshly criticized the Constitutional Court ruling that paved the way for the release of Dündar and Gül on terror and espionage charges, saying he “does not accept or respect” the decision while vowing not to “obey” it.
“I'm not in a position to agree with this decision. I'm saying this very clearly: I don't concur with the decision and I have no respect for it,” he said Feb. 28.
Meanwhile, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Feb. 29 that Erdoğan's criticism over the ruling was his own personal position.
“It is the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, under the [then] prime ministry of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, that implemented the right to individual applications to the Constitutional Court in Turkey. In addition, our president clarified his own personal position regarding the Constitutional Court ruling. Everyone in Turkey can express their opinion against any court decision. There is nothing more natural than that. Moreover, our president expressed his opinion after the Constitutional Court ruling, not before the decision had been taken. Otherwise, it is not an opinion that would abolish the fact that the Constitutional Court is an authority to apply to for individuals. Our president himself is already one who took this step,” Kurtulmuş told reporters at a press conference after a cabinet meeting in Ankara.
Dündar and Gül were released early on Feb. 26 after 92 days in jail on terrorism and espionage charges, hours after the country's top court ruled that their pre-trial arrest violated their rights. Following the decision, the Istanbul 14th Court of Serious Crimes ordered their release but subjected them to an overseas travel ban.