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    Turkish judge: new laws should not hurt secularism

    Hurriyet English with wires
    10.05.2008 - 12:54 | Son Güncelleme:

    The head of Turkey's top administrative court said on Saturday arrangements that would harm secularism could not be regarded as ensuring the right to education, adding foreigners should show respect to Turkish judicial organs. (UPDATED)

    Sumru Cortoglu, the chairperson of Turkey's Council of State, added arrangements that would harm the principle of secularism and secular  education rules, a fundamental characteristics of the Republic, could not be safeguarded by international laws and universal legal principles.  

    "We support constitutional amendment initiatives that are in line with the fundamental and irrevocable principles of our Republic and universal values, that meet the needs of all segments of the society, and that aims to take under guarantee and improve human rights and freedoms," Cortoglu said in a ceremony held in the Turkish capital of Ankara to mark the 140th anniversary of foundation of the Council of State.

    Political tension has been high in Turkey since the Islamist AKP government amended the constitution to allow female students to enter universities with headscarves. Public opinion is divided on the issue as the headscarf seen as the symbol of political Islam. The constitutional amendments were taken to the court by leftist CHP with demanding their annulment.

    She said foreigners should show to independent Turkish judiciary the same respect they showed to their own judicial organs, lawsuits and verdicts.

    "This is a requirement of democracy, respect to law and independence of judiciary," Cortoglu added.

    A constitutional amendment should be in line with international laws and meet the needs of Turkish nation, and should not be made due to foreign pressure or influence, she added.

    Cortoglu said an independent and free judicial organ and securing a judicial organ that could work without any pressure or political intervention were preconditions of the principle of rule of law and separation of powers.

    "Every organ should be aware of the limits of its duties and authorities and behave responsibly. This will not only enhance compromise and cooperation among state organs but also improve our democracy," the chairperson said.

    She said the independence of justice was equal to independence of state, and was the most effective guarantee for protecting the rights of individuals.

    The chairperson said judicial decisions could also be criticized, however those criticisms should be made carefully and cautiously, and people should refrain from accusing judicial staff when criticizing.

    Inaugurated on May 10th, 1869 by Ottoman Sultan Abdulaziz, the council was based on the principle of separation of executive, judicial and legislative powers. However, it was duly abolished like all other organizations during the War of Independence.

    It was re-established on October 23rd, 1925. The Council of State is the highest administrative court, mainly with appellate jurisdiction. The Council of State is not only a high administrative court but also an advisory body.

    On local administrations, the chairperson said that it should not be forgotten that transferring the duties and authorities of the central government to local administrations and allowing regional administrations that did not abide by Turkey's administrative structure might put the unitary structure of Turkey under discussion.

    Becoming a member of the Council of State in September 1992, Cortoglu was elected the chairperson of the Council of State on May 2nd, 2006. She will be retired on May 13th, 2008 under the age limit.

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