March 21, 2018

The appointment of Council of State head Zerrin Güngör’s daughter Gonca Hatinoğlu as an investigative judge at the Court of Cassation has drawn criticism, amid opposition claims of rising “nepotism” in the Turkish state.

Hatinoğlu was appointed as an investigative judge by the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) on March 21, two days after she was appointed as a judge in the eastern province of Elazığ in a lottery ceremony.

Her appointment came as a reshuffle of 356 judges and prosecutors, with the change in Hatinoğlu’s position referred to as a “spouse-related justification.”

The post to which she has been appointed in the Court of Cassation usually necessitates many years’ experience as a judge.

Following the July 2016 coup attempt, the purge of officials accused of links to the movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen left widespread vacancies in Turkey’s justice system amid thousands of arrests and dismissals.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Barış Yarkadaş was among those who blasted Hatinoğlu’s appointment.

“Güngör’s daughter, Gonca Hatimoğlu, was appointed as a judge yesterday. Before even going to her first place of duty, Elazığ, within 24 hours she was appointed to Ankara. Is this justice?” Yarkadaş wrote on his official Twitter account on March 20.

He added that former Supreme Court Penal Department head Mustafa Lütfi Tombaloğlu’s son, Onur Tombaloğlu, was also reappointed as an Ankara judge just 24 hours after he was appointed to the southern province of Kilis via a lottery.

Yarkadaş also stated that 113 of 1,236 newly appointed judges are directly affiliated with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

HSK rejects claims

The HSK has rejected the claims of nepotism, saying that appointments based on justifications are made right after every lottery ceremony of regular appointments.

“Twenty-seven people who were under same conditions [as Hatinoğlu] have also been appointed as investigative judges to the Court of Cassation,” said HSK deputy head Mehmet Yılmaz on March 21.

He also denied the allegations that the majority of the newly appointed judges are supporters or members of the ruling party.

“There are people from every mentality, thought and region,” he added.