Turkish MPs pass judicial reforms amid brawl

The BBC's James Reynolds said there have been fights in parliament before, but this one "gives the temperature"

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Turkish MPs have approved controversial plans to reform the country's top judicial body, amid a brawl which left one opposition MP with a broken nose.

The government wants the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors - the HSYK - to come under justice ministry control.

The bill was debated overnight amid heated scenes, with reports of dozens of MPs involved in a fist fight.

Last month the judicial body said the plans were unconstitutional and would undermine its independence.

The plans were proposed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party, which dominates parliament.

At one point during the 20-hour debate, scuffles broke out leading to punches being thrown.

The MP whose nose was broken - Ali Ihsan Kokturk from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) - needed hospital treatment.

Another MP from the governing AK Party suffered broken fingers.

Opposition MP Ali Ihsan Kokturk pictured after his nose was broken Opposition MP Ali Ihsan Kokturk had his nose broken in the brawl

The reforms come after allies of Mr Erdogan were arrested in a major corruption inquiry, after which the government dismissed hundreds of policemen.

There is intense rivalry between Mr Erdogan and a former ally, Fethullah Gulen, who has many supporters in the police and judiciary. Mr Gulen is an influential Islamic scholar living in self-imposed exile in the US.

Ozcan Yeniceri, an MP from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), was among those to criticise the bill, saying it was aimed at impeding corruption inquiries and "meeting the needs of the AK Party", Reuters reports.

But a senior official from Mr Erdogan's AK Party told the BBC this was not the case.

"Public opinion about the corruption case is so sensitive that the government would be under a lot more pressure if it tried to cover it up," Osman Can said.

Referring to Mr Gulen's movement, he said the changes were aimed mainly "to stop this illegitimate organisation within the judiciary that would not be acceptable in any democratic country".

Judicial reform is a highly sensitive issue because Turkey is under pressure from the EU to bring its justice system into line with EU standards.

Turkey hopes to join the EU, but progress in the negotiations has been very slow.

The Islamist-rooted AK Party is trying to overhaul institutions such as the judiciary and armed forces, traditionally dominated by secularists loyal to the values of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish state.

The secularist CHP has said it will contest the plans in Turkey's Constitutional Court.

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