Outgoing chair of Turkey's highest court retires suddenly

ANKARA - Hasim Kilic, the outgoing veteran chairman of Turkey’s Constitutional Court -- the country's highest -- has announced that he will retire just after a new chairman was elected by fellow judges to replace him.

Kilic, speaking at a press conference in Ankara on Tuesday, said his decision to retire was "definitely" not related to any political plan.

The outgoing president decided to retire before his tenure ends on March 13 as he "wanted the new president to work more easily," avoiding a situation where Turkey's top court would have two heads.

During his speech Kilic said that Turkey had missed the opportunity to resolve differences through dialogue, adding that leaders should avoid "polarization."

Rejecting what he termed "hate speeches" Kilic said: "We have to continue to discuss problems in a democratic way."

He promised that he would keep on his efforts "to preserve rights and freedoms."

Kilic also referred to strong criticism against him about his being "pro-coup" which he said was deeply upsetting.

"Those who benefitted the most from my sense of democracy later accused me of being pro-coup," Kilic said. "Even though the criticisms against me were shocking and disturbing, I considered them within the scope of freedom of expression."

Kilic, having spent 25 years in the Turkish constitutional court, will now be replaced by Zuhtu Arslan, who won 11 out of 17 votes from members in the first round of elections.

Arslan, a graduate of political science at Ankara University, obtained his doctorate in constitutional law and became a professor in 2007.

He has published books in Turkish and English, articles on constitutional jurisdiction, human rights, the relation between freedom and security and political parties.

When he was the dean of Police Academy in Ankara, the then-president Abdullah Gul selected Arslan to be a member of the Constitutional Court in April 2012.

The newly elected chairman will hold his position for the next four years.

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