A top contender for a seat on Turkey’s Constitutional Court once called for the destruction of Israel, a Nordic Monitor investigation has discovered.
Kenan Yaşar, an attorney who received the most votes from bar associations for nomination as a judge at the nation’s top court, predicted a doomsday scenario for Israel in a posting on Twitter.
“As your oppression increases, your end is soon. The day of your destruction is near, terrorist Israel. Let the fire you light turn into a hell for yourself,” he tweeted on May 11, 2021.
In another tweet Yaşar shared a joke about the Holocaust to support a government move in 2020 to create bar associations to compete with ones that are critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The joke he retweeted on June 3, 2020 went like this: “A man walks into a bar and sees Hitler and Mussolini sitting at a table. He walks up to them and asks what they are doing. Hitler says We’re planning WW3. The man asks what’s going to happen this time. Hitler says This time we’re going to kill 14 million Jews and a bicycle repair man. The man asks why a bicycle repair man. Hitler turns to Mussolini and says, See, I told you no one would care about the 14 million Jews.”
Other comments made by Yaşar show that he was staunchly opposed to protecting the rights of LGBTI people as well as members of the Gülen movement, a group that is critical of the Erdoğan government.
Yaşar is a senior member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and served as deputy charman of the AKP in Çorum province, the heartland of the country. He was twice a nominee for a seat in parliament in the elections of 2007 and 2011 on the AKP ticket. He is also the president of the bar association in Çorum.
If Yaşar is elected by members of parliament among three contenders for the seat on the Constitutional Court, he will be the second judge harboring openly anti-Semitic views. He is rumored to have already secured the backing of the Justice Ministry.
Irfan Fidan, a former prosecutor in Istanbul, was awarded a seat on the Constitutional Court in 2020 after he squelched the most comprehensive counterterrorism probe into the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force network in Turkey. Fidan, personally selected by Erdoğan to torpedo the Quds Force investigation, dropped all charges against the Iranian and Turkish nationals who were identified as part of Quds Force cells. He also launched a new criminal case against everyone who was involved in the investigation into the Quds Force and ordered the detention of the police chiefs who had uncovered the sophisticated Iranian network in Turkey.
A seat on the 15-member Constitutional Court will be vacated by Celal Mümtaz Akıncı, who has reached the mandatory retirement age of 65.
According to the Turkish Constitution, one member on the Constitutional Court is elected from among three nominees named by the presidents of bar associations. Yaşar received the most votes in the election with 18, followed by Zülal Erdoğan Bilal and Talat Göğebakan, with 13 and 11 votes, respectively.
Yaşar’s nomination was endorsed by Metin Feyzioğlu, an ally of President Erdoğan and former head of the Union of Bar Associations. Feyzioğlu described Yaşar as a close friend and colleague.
Parliament also selects two members for the court from among three members nominated by the plenary of the Court of Accounts. The remaining members are selected by the president either directly or indirectly. If Yaşar is confirmed by parliament, the influence of President Erdoğan on the court will be further consolidated.
In April 2020 the Turkish president appointed Basri Bağcı, who was deemed “unqualified” to be a judge at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), as a new member of the Constitutional Court. Bağcı, along with other two nominees proposed by Turkey, was rejected by the PACE committee responsible for selecting ECtHR judges on the grounds that the proposed names “lacked the necessary qualifications to be elected as an ECtHR judge.”
The Constitutional Court has already become a political tool in the hands of the Erdoğan government, turning a blind eye to massive human rights violations and flagrant abuse of the criminal justice system to prosecute government critics, opponents and dissidents. The court did not even act to protect the rights of two of its members — Erdal Tercan and Alparslan Altan — when they were unlawfully detained, prosecuted and jailed. The ECtHR found violations in both cases when they reviewed the complaints filed by the judges.
The Constitutional Court examines the constitutionality, in respect of both form and substance, of laws, presidential decrees and the Rules of Procedure of the Turkish Parliament. With a constitutional amendment that took effect in 2010 the Constitutional Court was also authorized to review individual applications with respect to fundamental rights and freedoms within the scope of the European Convention on Human Rights after the exhaustion of ordinary legal remedies. In that capacity the Constitutional Court acts, in a sense, as a “national ECtHR” and is recognized as a legal domestic remedy by the ECtHR to be exhausted before a complaint is lodged with the Strasbourg court.
However, observers of the court say the Constitutional Court has turned into a rubber-stamping body that approves government actions even when they violate fundamental human rights. Some of the court’s decisions in recent years have been rejected by the ECtHR, which found violations in cases where the Constitutional Court ruled that no violation had taken place. Some critics argue that the Constitutional Court has ceased to be an effective remedy in preventing rights violations and called for the ECtHR to declare it as such and start accepting complaints directly from Turkey without waiting for the exhaustion of local remedies.