A conversation between two judges who were unable to start a hearing on October 20 due to the absence of the chief judge revealed that the judge was on the phone with an advisor to Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to a report by Müyesser Yıldız of the OdaTV news website, the conversation was revealed when the judges left their microphones on. After the incident, the defendants petitioned the court asking the chief judge to recuse himself, claiming that his impartiality was in question. They also filed a complaint with Turkey’s judicial council.
Article 138 of the Turkish Constitution stipulates that “judges shall be independent in the discharge of their duties. … No organ, authority, office or individual may give orders or instructions to courts or judges relating to the exercise of judicial power, send them circulars or make recommendations or suggestions.”
The petitioner requested that all the chief judge’s call records be obtained and that the recordings of the courtroom’s CCTV cameras and sound system be added to the file. Yet, according to Yıldız, the court chose not to take any steps.
The case in question was about a military coup attempt that took place on the night of July 15, 2016, which, according to many, was a false flag aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of President Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.
Legal professionals have criticized the use of mass trials against thousands accused of even vague involvement in the coup, including convictions handed down to army cadets and others who were ordered out onto the streets that night with little knowledge of what was going on.
The coup cases are considered to be of critical importance to the Turkish government. On November 17, Selfet Giray, chief justice of the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, which ruled on the most important mass trial of the coup cases, known as the Akıncı case, was named a new member of the Supreme Court of Appeals only a day after his court delivered life sentences without parole to 291 defendants and life with the possibility of parole to 46 defendants. Eighty defendants were acquitted of charges and 58 received lesser sentences. The move was regarded by many as a reward for Giray’s ruling.