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Radical Islamists tapped to be judges and prosecutors in Turkey

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

A key pro-government association rooted in religious fanaticism and a jihadist mindset has been serving as a springboard for staffing Turkey’s judiciary as a new generation of judges, prosecutors and jurists is chosen to replace thousands of veteran judges and prosecutors who were purged, exiled or otherwise jailed.

The Association for Justice Volunteers (Adalet Gönüllüleri in Turkish, or Adalet-Der) used to be an obscure and marginal entity when it was set up in 2006 by a group of Islamist lawyers.

It was tapped by the government as a sort of human resource management company to recruit new candidates to be judges and prosecutors in the aftermath of major corruption investigations that were made public in December 2013 and incriminated then-Prime Minister and now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, who briefed lawmakers in the Planning and Budget Commission on Nov. 23, 2017, the government has purged 3,945 judges and prosecutors since July 15, 2016.

The Justice Ministry dismissed 5,813 employees in the same period. It immediately hired 4,653 judges and prosecutors without any training; most were lawyers who were members of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Gül said 3,566 candidate judges and prosecutors who are waiting to be appointed to benches and offices would start their jobs before year’s end.

He also admitted that the much-criticized practice of hiring lawyers as judges and prosecutors would stop and that they would now focus on training and education.

No big deal. That training and education was already being provided by pro-Erdoğan associations, which should set off alarm bells for those who are concerned about radicalization in Turkey.

Adalet-Der is not the only Islamist organization that sends candidates to the Justice Ministry to become judges and prosecutors, but it certainly stands out from the rest because of high-profile events.

Adalet-Der had long been led by Bilal Temel, a lawyer who served in senior positions in Erdoğan’s ruling AKP and currently holds a powerful position as deputy secretary-general of the AKP.

Under his watch Adalet-Der, whose name was changed to Adalet ve Medeniyet (Justice and Civilization) after it started publishing a quarterly magazine under the same name in 2015, has turned out to be a vetting mechanism for new judges and prosecutors in Turkey.

The meetings, seminars and workshops organized by the group have been attended by government ministers and senior members of the judiciary including the justice minister and members of the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), the Constitutional Court, the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Yılmaz Akçil, head of the Justice Academy, which controls the training and education of candidate judges and prosecutors, has grown quite fond of the group.

Since it has the full backing of the Erdoğan government, Adalet ve Medeniyet has been busy in moving young Islamists into government positions as judges and prosecutors.

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