No demotion for Turkish prosecutor under investigation for misconduct

Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) has failed to demote a prosecutor who is under investigation for his alleged links to a criminal network that extorted businesspeople by threatening them with prosecution, Gazete Duvar reported on Wednesday.

Okan Bato, the former deputy chief prosecutor of İzmir, is accused of involvement in an alleged ring of bureaucrats that is accused of demanding large amounts of money from businesspeople and other wealthy individuals in exchange for not prosecuting them on charges of links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

According to the report, the HSK has reappointed Bato from İzmir to a regional courthouse in Antalya, but the reappointment fails to fulfill the legal requirement of demotion in such cases since Bato’s new assignment is not a lower position in terms of classification.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of orchestrating a failed coup in July 2016, although the movement denies any involvement in it.

Since the abortive putsch, the Turkish authorities have imprisoned hundreds of businesspeople over their contributions to the movement’s educational activities and seized private assets worth billions of dollars in total. In addition, tens of thousands of people from all walks of life have been charged with membership in the movement on account of their social affiliation, mobile communications, newspaper subscriptions, labor union memberships or bank accounts.

In recent years, there have been many allegations of judges and prosecutors accepting money in return for acquitting or dropping charges against allegedly Gülen-linked individuals. These are generally referred to as “FETÖ exchange” (“FETÖ borsası” in Turkish), using the derogatory term coined by the Turkish government to refer to the Gülen movement.

Set up to ensure judicial independence by regulating the appointment of judges and prosecutors, the HSK has in recent years become an instrument that facilitates the political encroachment upon the judiciary.

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