ANKARA - It was this current government that has ensured the greatest judicial independence, Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin said yesterday, responding to criticism by the Supreme Court of Appeals's chief judge. "Those who criticize us should first thank us," Şahin told the private CNNTürk in an interview. Şahin’s remarks came a day after Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Appeals Hasan Gerçeker’s complaint about the pressures on the judiciary and suggested amendments to bolster the autonomy of the judges.

Gerçeker touched on the planned constitutional amendments that would come onto the agenda after the March 29 local elections and listed their expectations from the government on what are seen as obstacles in front of full judiciary independence. Modifications to the structure of the Supreme Council of Judges, or HSYK, privatization of forensic medicine and the release of judges from the supervision of an executive power are among the chief judge’s demands.

On HSYK’s structure, Şahin said both the justice minister and ministry undersecretary would remain natural members of the council, in opposition with the judge’s demand. "They should be there, no need to be prejudiced or conservative on this. We are seeking the ideal model," he said. He also implied that the ministry would continue to appoint members to the council despite Gerçeker’s calls to leave it to the HSYK. "The council’s members have been appointed by the ministry since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey."