Turkish Cypriot opposition slams Erdoğan over his threats to top court

The Turkish Cypriot opposition has slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for threatening the territory’s top court.

Erdoğan said on Friday that the Constitutional Court in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) would face consequences for a recent ruling on the teaching of religious courses in the Turkish-controlled northern third of the Mediterranean island.

The court must quickly “amend its mistake, otherwise there will be repercussions with (Ankara taking) different steps”, Erdoğan said.

Judicial independence is the cornerstone of rule of law, and the statements by Turkish government authorities were no way acceptable, Tufan Erhürman, the head of the main opposition Turkish Cypriot Republican Turkish Party (CTP) said via his Facebook account.

“Turkish Cypriots will never give up defending human rights, rule of law and judicial independence,” the former primer minister added.

At a time when a two-state solution was being advocated for Cyprus, the independence of the TRNC and the freedom of its courts is a matter everyone should respect, former Deputy Prime Minister Kudret Özersay, the head of the second largest opposition People’s Party (HP) said.

“In this regard, we do not accept such statements made by Turkish authorities that harm the Turkish Cypriot judiciary, for the sake of the relations between Turkey and TRNC,” he said via a Facebook post.

On Wednesday, the TRNC’s Constitutional Court annulled a law allowing courses teaching the Koran to be organised by the TRNC’s Office of Religious Affairs, which acts under the influence of the Diyanet, its Turkish equivalent based in Ankara.

The court ruled that Koran education should be performed under state control, said Hasan Esendağlı, the president of TRNC Bar Association, Yenidüzen newspaper reported on Thursday. 

The association denounced Erdoğan’s reaction and said its members would gather in front of the court on Monday to raise their voice for the independence of the judiciary.

The remarks of Turkey’s authorities, which are contrary to both the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers, is a major attack on the scales of justice, the association said via social media.

“We are well aware that the threats made to our courts and the statements saying that necessary action will be taken if the decisions are not withdrawn are aimed at eliminating the independence of the judiciary. This results in the destruction of the system based on democracy,” it said.

“At this point, both us, the law enforcers and the society should protect the independence and democracy of the judiciary as a whole.”

Prior to Erdoğan’s intervention, Turkey’s Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun called the court’s ruling “a judicial coup, a product of an ideological and dogmatic mind”.