Judge notorious for convicting dissidents put in charge of Turkey’s top judicial board

A Turkish judge known for convicting dissidents has been put in charge of Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), in a move seen as another reward for his decisions favoring President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, Turkish Minute reported.

The promotion of judge Akın Gürlek was reported on X, formerly known as Twitter, by journalist Seyhan Avşar from the Halk TV news website.

Gürlek is known for his controversial rulings including the sentencing of Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş to four years, eight months in prison for spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization and the sentencing of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s İstanbul provincial chairman Canan Kaftancıoğlu to nine years, eight months due to her social media posts.

Gürlek was the presiding judge of İstanbul’s 14th High Criminal Court, which defied a ruling of the Turkish Constitutional Court requesting that a lower court retry CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu, claiming that the order for a retrial was “interference in the decision made within the jurisdiction of our court.”

In December the same court also rejected a motion for the release of prominent businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who had been behind bars on a series of changing charges since 2017, when his lawyers took the case to a higher court — the appeals court — after the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on Nov. 26 had extended his imprisonment.

Gürlek is also known for convicting some members of the Academics for Peace, who drew the ire of President Erdoğan by issuing a declaration demanding a peaceful solution to the country’s Kurdish issue and criticizing Turkish security forces for a heavy-handed response that saw citizens confined under long-lasting curfews in predominantly Kurdish cities under bombardment.

The People’s Law Office referred to Gürlek as “the AKP’s robed executioner” in a tweet, saying that fascism is doing what is in line with its nature by rewarding its “servants.”

“We will also do what is in line with our nature, we will not forget, we will hold them to account!” they added.

In September 2021 the HSK promoted Gürlek to the position of “first-class judge” despite its previous decision not to promote judges whose verdicts were overturned by the Constitutional Court for rights violations.

The HSK, Turkey’s top judicial administrative body, was set up to ensure an independent judiciary, but over time it has become a political instrument for putting the judiciary under government control.

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