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Turkey

Top Turkish judge hits back at Erdogan criticism

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been publicly rebuked by the country's most senior judge. The head of the Constitutional Court hit back at "excessive" government criticism of the court's rulings.

Judge Hasim Kilic's strongly-worded speech came at a ceremony marking the 52nd year of the founding of Turkey's Constitutional Court, attended by Erdogan and other top government figures. The prime minister recently criticized the court over its order to reverse the government's blocking of Twitter, and has otherwise disapproved of the judicial body by asserting its rulings were becoming politicized.

Kilic (pictured above) rejected these claims, while in the presence of a grim-looking Erdogan.

"To say that the Constitutional Court acts with a political agenda or to blame it for not being patriotic is shallow criticism," Kilic told the ceremony.

"In a state governed by the rule of law, courts do not work on orders or instructions, and cannot be manipulated by sentiments of friendship or emnity," he said.

"The Constitutional Court, in line with constitutional law, reviews and checks decisions and legislation made by the executive body. Therefore, any decision it makes naturally has political implications," Kilic added.

Earlier this month, the court also ruled recently that key parts of a package to overhaul the judiciary, pushed through parliament by Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development (AKP), were unconstitutional. The package was designed increase the justice minister's powers at the judiciary's expense.

Erdogan has in the past accused Kilic and other judges of seeking a political role in Turkey through their rulings.

After the order to reinstate Twitter, Erdogan vowed to abide by the judgment but not respect it. The short messaging service had become a popular vehicle for spreading information appearing to implicate members of Erdogan's government in a major corruption scandal.

He had ordered the internet curbs in the lead-up to municipal elecions in March, which his AK Party easily won despite the allegations.

Turkey's justice minister says Kilic's comments strayed into the very political territory that the Constitional Court vowed to be staying away from.

"The Constitutional Court is a judicial organ and its president is a member of the judiciary. The speech delivered by the president must be judicial, not political," said Bekir Bozdag.

jr/lw (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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