European court rules Turkey violated top judge’s right to liberty

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Tuesday ruled that Turkey had violated the rights to liberty and security of Alparslan Altan, a former judge of the country’s Constitutional Court who was jailed immediately after a 2016 coup attempt.  

Altan was detained on July 16, 2016, a day after the abortive putsch, and was arrested by an Ankara court four days later.

On Sept. 7, 2016, Altan applied to the Constitutional Court claiming unjust confinement in pretrial detention; however, the high court found his incarceration justified on Jan. 11, 2018.

On Jan. 15, 2018 a local court indicted Altan, demanding 11 years, three months’ imprisonment over Gülen movement links, and the trial is still pending.

According to the ECtHR, the court that jailed Altan in the first place failed to provide “reasonable suspicion” for pretrial detention, and the evidence keeping Altan in jail had been gathered after this initial detention.

“The first item to be obtained had been recorded on 4 August 2016, more than two weeks after the applicant had been placed in pre-trial detention. The other statements and evidence had been obtained a considerable time afterwards,” the court’s statement said.

The court held that Turkey was to pay the applicant 10,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damages.

As the Turkish side has defended the detention of former judge Altan, citing state of emergency measures, the European court said: “It had legal consequences reaching far beyond the context of the state of emergency, and was in no way justified by the special circumstances arising in that context.”

Turkey’s judiciary is being criticized for acting on orders from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and not basing their rulings on the law. Judges in Turkey who make decisions that anger Erdoğan are either replaced or jailed. Turkey has fallen to 109th place out of 126 countries in the World Justice Project’s (WJP) 2019 Rule of Law Index, a comprehensive measure of the rule of law.

The Turkish government arrested a total of 2,431 judges and prosecutors and dismissed 4,424 others following the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Around 150,000 civil servants have been purged under government decrees since the abortive putsch.

According to the Turkish Interior Ministry, since the failed coup more than 500,000 people have been detained in countrywide police operations and some 30,000 are currently behind bars for their alleged ties to the faith-based civic Gülen movement. (SCF with

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