A letter by a Turkish judge who wrote to journalist Ahmet Dönmez for the TR724 news portal has revealed the severity of the situation in Turkey’s judiciary. The letter, a copy of which was published by journalist Dönmez, details the Turkish government’s control and pressure on judiciary to make politically motivated decisions along with the judges’ ordeal, despair and distress in adjudication and examen.
The judge, his name was kept anonymous, said the judges are under incredible pressure by noting that in Turkey judges are hostages on the basis of not being able to make a decision according to fair trial principle. He said that many judges are willing to return a verdict of not guilty in “FETÖ/PDY” cases, however they fear being associated with the Gülen movement, hence they act otherwise in order to not lose their job and not being imprisoned.
“FETÖ” is a pejorative acronym that Turkey’s political Islamist government has used to smear the civic Gülen movement as a ‘terror organization.’
“Most of these judges would die of starvation if they leave their profession. They are forced into make decisions. They are afraid of having bad straits and ending up in jail. They fear from being labelled as terrorists,” he said in an e-mail dated October 2, 2017. The judge went a step further and said that “Do not expect everyone to be a hero. And there is no need for everyone to be so characterless. It is enough to find a prosecutor with weak character and a judge in a province,” by noting that the rest of the judges cannot speak out of fear.
In reference to a former judge of High Criminal Court of Kırşehir province, he said that one of his colleagues could not leave his position despite he wants to leave because of being afraid of taken into prison. “One of our colleagues could not leave the profession. Do you know why? His father told him, ‘I visited your hearings for a couple of times without your information. And I am not going to give my blessing. You have arrested a lot of innocent people and throw them in dungeon.’
Last February Fatih Mehmet Aksoy from Kırşehir was taken into custody during the hearing and arrested.” He told that even though they told that the alleged reason was to use ByLock app, the main purpose was that he was preparing to release about 60 people in ‘FETÖ’ cases.”
In the letter, the judge also told that despite the fact that the former judge did not use that application, they imprisoned him as an intimidation to other judges. He also stressed that the judge who could not leave the office was told that if he leaves the profession, then he would also end up like him.
The judge also explained how a judge could not take the pressure imposed by the Turkish government. “One of our colleagues said that he cannot stand it anymore. He said he is having nightmares. He told, ‘I am pissed off seeing people I have jailed in nightmares.’ Considering his situation, the magistrate’s cases to arrest people were distributed among other judges, and they told that you will arrest people in sequence,” said the judge.
“Right now Turkey is taken with fear. No one can talk to anyone. Nobody trusts each other. Even the most affluent people sleep in fear, and think that they can always be denounced by someone at any moment.” He said by reference to today’s governors and deputies are not free even in the toilet of their own house.
He remarked that those people taken to jail within the scope of alleged links over Gülen movement will be the members of this movement. “There is so much injustice. Everyone is well aware of [this situation]. Enough is enough. You do not have to be a member of this movement to think so,” he said.
Turkish authorities believe using ByLock is a sign of being a member of the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The mobile phone application ByLock is seen as the top communication tool among members of the group. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.