Top Turkish court chairman slams government criticism of judiciary

ANKARA Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:50am EDT

Constitutional Court Chairman Hasim Kilic, the chief justice, addresses media in Ankara July 7, 2010. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Constitutional Court Chairman Hasim Kilic, the chief justice, addresses media in Ankara July 7, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Umit Bektas

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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's Constitutional Court Chairman Hasim Kilic denounced "excessive" political criticism of his tribunal on Friday, in a defiant challenge of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan who has criticized recent court rulings.

"To say that the Constitutional Court acts with a political agenda or to blame it for not being patriotic is shallow criticism," Kilic said in a ceremony attended by a grim-looking Erdogan, who skipped a subsequent reception.

Kilic's uncompromising speech, broadcast live on some local television channels, is likely to exacerbate already tense relations between the government and Turkey's judiciary.

Erdogan said this month he did not respect a verdict lifting a government-imposed ban on Twitter, which was seen by his opponents as an attempt to halt a string of audio leaks purportedly linking the government with corruption allegations.

A week later, the prime minister slammed another constitutional court ruling annulling some articles of a law that sought to increase government control of a key judicial body.

That law was among several measures, including legislation tightening control of the internet, the government took after a graft scandal emerged in December with police raids targeting the sons of ministers and businessmen close to Erdogan.

The prime minister has accused influential U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally, of contriving the corruption scandal. Gulen denies the accusation.

(Reporting by Gulsen Solaker and Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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