The story of Hasan Kaya, a former bureaucrat who was fired from his job over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and was later denied reinstatement by an administrative court for connections to the Gülen movement, shows how Turkey’s courts operate in cases of public servants dismissed from their jobs for political reasons.
According to the Mezopotamya News Agency, Kaya was working as the acting head of software development at the Metropolitan Municipality of Diyarbakır, a Kurdish-majority city in southeast Turkey. He was fired from his job and was banned from public service without any due process by an executive decree on July 14, 2017. He appealed to the State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission (OHAL Commission) to be reinstated to his job but was denied.
Kaya took the commission’s decision to Ankara 20th Administrative Court and asked to be reinstated to his job, citing another court decision that acquitted him of charges of membership in the PKK, an armed secessionist group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the US.
The court denied Kaya’s request, citing the OHAL Commission’s decision, but said he could not be reinstated because he had links to the Gülen movement, a faith based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. The crackdown also targeted political opponents of the government, Kurdish activists and human rights defenders, among others. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
According to Kaya the court’s decision was probably a mistake as they copy and paste parts of older decisions in different cases. “My case demonstrates how sloppy they [the courts] are in cases that impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.
Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Over 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors as well as 20,610 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.
Former public servants were not only fired from their jobs; they were also banned from working again in the public sector and getting a passport. The government also made it difficult for them to work formally in the private sector. Notes were put on the social security database about dismissed public servants to deter potential employers.
The OHAL Commission was established as an appeals body under pressure from the Council of Europe in order to relieve the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) of a huge workload emanating from tens of thousands of Turkish applicants who were unable to take their cases to Turkish courts. According to critics, the commission’s role is simply to delay or prevent possible ECtHR decisions against Turkey. The commission is also accused of bias as it is led by former Justice Ministry deputy undersecretary Selahaddin Menteş, who had been openly supportive of President Erdoğan.
In its Turkey 2020 report, the European Commission (EC) raised serious concerns about the ability of the commission to provide an effective remedy to dismissals. The report criticized the lengthy review procedures and underlined that the applicants did not have a proper means of defense as the commission does not hold hearings. The EC also said the commission did not have sufficiently individualized criteria to evaluate the applications.