Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul signed into law a contested bill tightening the government’s grip on the judiciary as it grapples to contain the fallout from a major corruption probe.
The new law signed on Wednesday, which sparked fistfights among politicians debating it in parliament, will give the Justice Ministry greater control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), an independent body responsible for appointing members of the judiciary, AFP news agency reported.
The law, along with a regulation tightening control of the Internet already approved by Gul, is seen by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s critics as an authoritarian response to a corruption inquiry shaking his government.
The battle for control of the HSYK, the body which appoints senior members of the judiciary, lies at the heart of a feud between Erdogan and US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen, who is said to have millions of followers, has built up influence in the police and judiciary over decades. Erdogan blames him for unleashing the corruption investigation, which he sees as a way of unseating him.