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Turkey's top judge criticizes prime minister

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's most senior judge has delivered a sharp rebuke to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for criticizing his court's decisions, including one that lifted a ban on Twitter on the grounds that it violated freedoms.

Erdogan reluctantly complied with the high court ruling to unblock Twitter earlier this month. Erdogan said, however, that he did not respect the ruling and described it as being against national interests.

On Friday, Constitutional Court Chief Justice Hasim Kilic slammed what he said was "disproportionate" and "shallow criticism" of the court's ruling. Speaking at a ceremony marking the court's 52nd anniversary, Kilic stressed the independence of Turkey's courts, saying they did not take "orders and instructions."

Erdogan's government shut down access to Twitter and YouTube in March after they became conduits for leaked recordings suggesting widespread corruption. In the wake of the scandal, Erdogan also shuffled thousands of police officers and tightened government controls over the judiciary, leading to accusations of a cover-up and increased concerns that he is moving toward more authoritarian rule.

The Constitutional Court overturned the Twitter ban and annulled a law that increased the government's authority over the judiciary. YouTube, however, remains blocked. Kilic delivered his speech to an audience that included Erdogan. The prime minister and other officials didn't applaud the speech and news reports said Erdogan left the ceremony without attending the reception.

Hours later, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag came to Erdogan's defense, saying Constitutional Court rulings aren't beyond reproach and accused the top judge of acting as an "opposition party." "To make political statements, to enter political polemics is not among his duties," Bozdag said.

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