ANKARA: Turkey's constitutional court on Friday overturned sections of a controversial judiciary reform adopted in response to a corruption scandal roiling the government, local media said.
The court said the most controversial clause of the law, giving the justice ministry greater control over the appointment of prosecutors and judges, was unconstitutional, private NTV television reported.
The decision came after an appeal by a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) who said it violated the principles of separation of powers and independence of courts.
The CHP's Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrikulu hailed the decision and said: "With its recent decisions, the Constitutional Court has turned into a body championing freedoms, which unsettles the regime."
"This law includes so many unconstitutional elements that it would be strange if (the court) gave another decision," Tanrikulu told AFP.
The court also overturned parts of the law that give the justice minister the authority to investigate prosecutors of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), an independent body responsible for appointing members of the judiciary.
The contentious bill, which sparked fistfights among lawmakers debating it in parliament, was signed into law by Turkish President Abdullah Gul in February despite opposition and rights groups arguing it was an attack on democracy.
Friday's ruling also brings uncertainty to the key HSYK members installed by the justice minister shortly after the bill was passed.
Tanrikulu called on the new members of the board to "act morally" and resign over the court ruling.
The bill was one of the retaliatory measures taken by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of a graft scandal which erupted in mid-December implicating his key allies.
The premier has accused Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric, and his loyalists in the Turkish police and justice system, of being behind the corruption probe.
The wide-ranging investigation posed the biggest challenge to Erdogan's 11-year rule and the government reacted by embarking on a mass purge of police and prosecutors believed to be close to Gulen's Hizmet movement.
The now-stalled probe implicated Erdogan directly in February after the publication of audio recordings allegedly showing him interfering in court cases, business deals and media coverage.
Erdogan has dismissed the recordings as a "vile montage" by his rivals and accused both prosecutors and police of spying for another country.
The phone-tapping scandal prompted him last month to ban Twitter and YouTube -- the outlets where explosive recordings have appeared -- and sparked widespread condemnation from Turkey's NATO allies.
The Constitutional Court, again acting in defiance of the government, has since lifted the ban on Twitter, but YouTube remains blocked despite two lower court orders. (AFP)