* Opposition sees bid to quash graft inquiry
* Law seen as bid to limit influence of Islamic cleric
* Erdogan accuses cleric of conspiring with "faked
By Gulsen Solaker
ANKARA, Feb 28 Turkey's main opposition party
asked the top court on Friday to overturn a law tightening
government control of the judiciary, which it sees as a bid by
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to snuff out a corruption scandal.
Hours after the law was enacted late on Thursday, Justice
Minister Bekir Bozdag appointed at least nine new senior members
of the judiciary. The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP)
said the law contained many violations of the constitution, and
appealed to the Constitutional Court to repeal it.
Voice recordings posted on YouTube this week purporting to
be Erdogan discussing financial matters with his son have piled
pressure on him as he battles graft allegations, which pose one
of the biggest challenges of his 11-year rule.
Erdogan has said the recordings are a "fabricated montage"
and has accused U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose
network of followers is believed to have built extensive
influence in the police and judiciary over decades, of
contriving the corruption scandal in a bid to unseat him.
The new law gives the government more control over the High
Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which makes top
Erdogan had already responded to the graft investigation by
dismissing or reassigning thousands of police officers and
hundreds of judges and prosecutors, in what his aides
acknowledge is a bid to wipe out Gulen's influence.
"With this law, the HSYK comes under the orders of the
justice minister," Akif Hamzacebi, a senior deputy of the
Republican People's Party (CHP), told reporters.
"This is clearly in violation of the principles of
separation of powers and the independence of courts," he said,
after filing the party's appeal.
SUSPECTS ALL RELEASED
The corruption scandal, which Erdogan has described as an
attempted "judicial coup" ahead of elections this year, erupted
on Dec. 17 with the arrest of dozens of bureaucrats and
businessmen close to him, as well as three ministers' sons.
Prosecutors decided on Friday to release the two remaining
ministers' sons and an Iranian gold dealer arrested that day,
the Dogan news agency said, which will mean none of those
originally detained two months ago are still being held.
The law on the judiciary is among several the government is
pushing through parliament before local elections on March 30.
It has already tightened control of the Internet and is seeking
greater powers for the state intelligence agency MIT.
Turkey has been seeking membership of the European Union for
decades, and the moves have raised concerns in Brussels that it
is shifting away from EU norms.
The government says they are necessary to rescue judicial
independence from Gulen's influence, to protect individual
privacy online from the sort of recordings appearing on YouTube
and to give its spy agency greater power to guard its citizens.
Gulen has repeatedly denied seeking to pull the levers of
President Abdullah Gul, who approved the judiciary law on
Wednesday, has said his objections secured last-minute changes
to the bills addressing some of the concerns. But the opposition
still disputes their legality.
Hamzacebi called on the Constitutional Court to suspend the
implementation of the HSYK law to prevent staff being removed
from their posts, as envisaged by the legislation.
Around 1,000 unelected staff, including its
secretary-general, inspectors, audit judges and administrative
staff, could lose their jobs or be reassigned as a result of the
law, according to media reports.
Bozdag appointed five new deputy general secretaries, a new
head of the HSYK's supervisory board and three supervisory board
members on Friday. He also named a new head of the Justice
Academy, where members of the judiciary receive training.
(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Kevin