Jailed Turkish lawyer Arslan, award winning head of dissolved YARSAV, faces groundless charges

Judge Murat Arslan, imprisoned YARSAV President.

Jailed lawyer Murat Arslan, president of the now dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), who won the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) 2017 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, was accused by Birol Erdem, a former Advisor at Turkish Prime Ministry, of being member of the Gülen movement as he was listened to as a witness at his trial on Monday.

Erdem claimed that Arslan, whom he had met before the elections of Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) that was held in 2010, told him that “We have 300-400 of our people,” by referring to the Gülen movement, while Aslan said that “Birol Erdem, who has done everything on behalf of the movement, is now witnessing here,” he spoke.

According to a report published by pro-government Doğan news agency (DHA), Murat Arslan and his lawyers attended the hearing in the Ankara 25th High Criminal Court. In the trial, Bülent Yücetürk, who lost the elections of YARSAV against Arslan, Birol Erdem, the former Advisor at the Prime Ministry, Ömer Faruk Eminaoğlu, YARSAV’s founder, and Erdal Konukçu, the Auditor General were heard as witnesses.

Making a statement of witnessing Murat Arslan in the year of 2010, Erdem claimed that back in 2010, Gülen movement was very active in the high judiciary. Erdem told that before the HSYK elections in 2010, the alleged members of movement brought Arslan to the room in the Ministry of Justice and told him that he was one of those members of movement.

Erdem further claimed that, “Murat Arslan has 300-400 men in YARSAV. We were preparing for the elections at that time and lists were being prepared for HSYK and they said, ‘We can get the result we want if we cooperate with each other,’ witness Erdem said on the question of the chairman of the Court, and added that the names of these people were members of the movement and those who appointed Arslan to the chairmanship were Galip Tuncay Tutar, İbrahim Okur, Çetin Sen and Muzaffer Bayram. Regarding those claims, the defendant Arslan reacted that Erdem is lying.

Witness Yücetürk, who stated that Murat Arslan only influenced the elections of YARSAV, claimed that “At that time, Murat Arslan appointed someone at the administrative level with the help of Gülen movement, and this is the point I criticized Arslan. I am not telling that Arslan is linked over the movement, but he made those elected in the administrative level.”

Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu has also stated that he established the Judiciary Union when Murat Arslan was the President of YARSAV. Eminağaoğlu said that he collaborated with Murat Arslan before the elections of HSYK that was held in 2014 with the message of “Neither the community (the Gülen movement)  nor government” by adding that he does not think that Arslan is linked to the movement.

Aslan who spoke after listening to the witnesses said, “Birol Erdem’s statement is completely false. I have never seen a person called Galip Tuncay Tatar, I know only the name of Çetin Şen, I also know Muzaffer Bayram later on. I request the Ministry of Justice to demand camera records.”

Referencing to the allegations that he went to the Ministry of Justice, Arslan emphasized that he did not go to the Ministry of Justice by noting, “All the action is done by Birol Erdem and İbrahim Okur, and now they are fasting the blame on me.”

Regarding the meeting that was held in the Ministry of Justice, Arslan pointed out that he told the figures in 2014. “These figures were also covered by the media. They are telling as if they were told in 2010,” said Arslan. He went a step further and told that there was not such a meeting in the Ministry of Justice by stating, “Birol Erdem is now witnessing here and condemning me as a member of the Gülen movement even though I took an action against them.”

Arslan’s lawyers, who were given the right to speak, demanded the release of their client. Explaining the interim decision after the prosecutor’s opinion, the court decided to continue the detention of Arslan. While the court ruled that Metin Özyurt, Galip Tuncay Tatar and Muzaffer Bayram would be heard as witnesses, it also determined that Arslan’s ByLock contents were sent to the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office if they exist. The court decided for investigation of those who were in the administrative level of YARSAV and and postponed the trial to February 12, 2018.

Arslan has been accused of helping the followers of the faith-based Gülen movement to “infiltrate” YARSAV during his tenure. YARSAV was earlier closed down by a government decree under the post-coup emergency rule.

Under arrest since Oct 26, 2016 as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement, Arslan denied the accusation during his court appearance on Thursday.

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