EU judges group says Turkey crackdown is attack on judicial independence

A man waves Turkey's national flag as he with supporters of various political parties gathers in Istanbul's Taksim Square during the Republic and Democracy Rally organised by main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Turkey, July 24, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Top judges of European Union member states called on Turkey on Wednesday to respect the rule of law, saying the dismissal of thousands of judges following an attempted coup was an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

Turkey has suspended, detained or placed under investigation more than 60,000 soldiers, judges, teachers, journalists and others suspected of ties to the movement of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen following the failed July 15-16 coup.

The EU judges, in a statement, said they were concerned at reports that more than 2,700 members of the judiciary had been removed and the death penalty might be restored in Turkey.

The group, comprising the presidents of the supreme courts of EU states, said independence of the judiciary was a guarantee of respect for human rights and freedoms allowing citizens to have confidence in the justice system.

The group “views the current events, in particular the dismissal or arrest of thousands of judges, as an attack on the independence of the judiciary in Turkey,” it said.

Western governments and rights groups have condemned the abortive coup in which at least 246 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured. But some have expressed alarm over the extent of the crackdown and suggested President Tayyip Erdogan may be using it to tighten his grip on power.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editging by Richard Balmforth