Persecuted members of high courts held in solitary confinement in Turkish prisons

Dozens of judges and prosecutors who are former members of Turkey’s high courts such as the Court of Cassation, the Council of State, the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK, now HSK) have been persecuted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Today, most of these jurists are held in solitary confinement in prisons across Turkey.

The first victims of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt, which was launched against alleged members of the Gülen movement in the aftermath of a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, were members of the Turkish judiciary. In the early hours of July 16, 2016, thousands of judicial members were detained in police raids on their houses.

Mehmet Yılmaz

Mehmet Yılmaz, vice president of the then-HSYK, had confirmed this massive post-coup witch hunt, saying, “We dismissed 2,740 members of the judiciary from their duties at 01:00 a.m. on July 16, 2016.” Yılmaz also said in an interview with the pro-government Akşam daily on April 6, 2018 that “4,100 members of the judiciary have been dismissed so far.”

It is known that more than 2,000 members of the judiciary were arrested and put behind bars in the wake of the July 15 military coup attempt. According to reports in Turkish media, the prosecutors issued detention warrants for two members of the Constitutional Court, 140 members of the Court of Cassation, 48 ​​members of the Council of State and 2,700 judges and prosecutors. All of these jurists, whose involvement into the military coup attempt were impossible, were detained by police and sent by courts to prison in accordance with liquidation lists that were prepared long before the July 2016 coup bid.

According to a survey conducted by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), all of the jailed members of the Court of Cassation and all of the first class judges have been held in solitary confinement in the jails. Many of them have been subjected to ill-treatment, resulting in the death of several of them, while many more are suffering severe psychological problems.

According to data compiled by SCF, Judge Ekrem Ertuğrul, the former head of the 9th Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation, and its members Hamza Yaman and Ahmet Toker and Judge Çetin Şen, former member of the Court of Cassation, have been held at Keskin Prison in Kırıkkale province.

Judge Mehmet Kara, the former head of the 4th Chamber of Law of the Court of Cassation, has also been kept in solitary confinement at Keskin Prison. Judge Önder Aytaç, another former member of the Court of Cassation and Judge Salih Sönmez, former member (for replacement) of the HSYK, are being held in Sincan Prison in Ankara province. Judge Ali Sancar, a member of the 16th Chamber of Law of the Court of Cassation, has been held in solitary confinement for about two years.

Judge Ekrem Ertuğrul, the former head of the 9th Chamber of the Court of Cassation who was tried by the same 9th Chamber of the Court of Cassation as a court of first instance, said during in a hearing on March 29, 2018: “I have been held in solitary confinement for 622 days. I deny all the claims against me.”

Judges Kasım Davas, Bülent Olcay, Fatih Cihangir and Hüseyin Solak, former members of the Council of State, have also been held in solitary confinement in Keskin Prison in Kırıkkale province. Keskin Prison is one of the prisons where the largest number of jurists were imprisoned. One hundred two judges who are former members of  the Court of Cassation and the Council of State have been held in this prison.

Judge Davas was also the former deputy undersecretary of the Prime Ministry when current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was still prime minister. Judge Olcay had come to the agenda after he hung his robe in the window in his office in the Council of State building to protest the AKP government’s attempts to control the judiciary.

Judges Alparslan Altan and Erdal Tercan, who were members of the Constitutional Court (AYM), were arrested after the July 15 coup bid and have been held in solitary confinement in Sincan Prison in Ankara province since then.

Nesibe Özer

Judge Nezibe Özer, a former member of the HSYK, has been kept at Bakırköy Women’s Prison in İstanbul. Judge Neslihan Ekinci, another female judge who was in the same prison, was later transferred to a prison in Tekirdağ province. It is known that Judge Ekinci, who has been kept in solitary confinement, has been suffering from severe psychological problems. Her daughter Rana Ekinci has tried to publicize the trauma experienced by her mother several times.

Judges Ahmet Kaya, Ahmet Berberoğlu, Mahmut Şen, Hüseyin Serter and Ömer Köroğlu, who were also members of the HSYK, have been held in solitary confinement in Keskin Prison.

Judge Teoman Gökçe, a former HSYK member who was also held in solitary confinement for months, died on April 2, 2018 in Sincan Prison after suffering a heart attack.

Seyfettin Yiğit

Seyfettin Yiğit was another jurist who died under suspicious circumstances in prison. Prosecutor Yiğit, who was detained in Bursa province as part of a witch hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement just after the July 15, 2016 coup bid, was arrested and put into an H Type Prison in Bursa. Yiğit was found dead in his ward on September 15, 2016. According to official reports, he committed suicide by hanging himself in the window of a toilet in the prison. But his daughter Ayça Yiğit said: “This is not a suicide, but a murder. He is not a person to commit suicide.”

Judge Mustafa Babayiğit, the former head of personnel at the Ministry of Justice who suffers from thyroid cancer, has been held at Kandıra Prison. Judge Babayiğit’s wife Songül Babayiğit, who is also a judge, is incarcerated in Tokat Prison.

İbrahim Ethem Kuriş, a former chief prosecutor in Ankara, was held in solitary confinement for month in Silivri Prison in İstanbul province. Kuriş, who has lung cancer and had twice undergone brain surgery, was released after nine months in solitary confinement.

Neslihan Ekinci

There are also jailed judges and prosecutors whose psychological health has been damaged, such as Judge Neslihan Ekinci, a former deputy secretary-general of the HSYK, who has been kept in solitary confinement for more than a year.

Judge Zafer Turanlı, a former member of the Court of Cassation, was referred to the Bakırköy Mental and Neurological Disease Hospital due to severe psychological problems. Former prosecutor Zeki Vatan, who has been held in Gaziantep L Type Prison, reportedly takes strong medication due to his psychological problems.

Another name undergoing severe psychological problems in adverse prison conditions is  former judge Atilla Rahman. Rahman, who was arrested on July 19, 2016, was first sent to Kırıklar F Type Prison. Rahman, who had frequent psychological problems there, was transferred to Menemen Prison in İzmir together with other imprisoned judges and prosecutors. Rahman’s psychological problems have become even more severe here. The prison doctor first referred him to a hospital in İzmir province. Judge Rahman, who experienced a psychological breakdown when he returned to the prison, was referred to the Manisa Psychological and Neurological Disease Hospital this time. Judge Rahman was sent back to prison after being kept under observation for 15 days at this hospital. According to information SCF has received, he continues to survive in prison by using high doses of sedatives.

Judge Fatih Cihangir, a former member of the Council of State, requested his release on April 22, 2018 during a hearing before the General Assembly of the Court of Cassation, stating that he has suffered psychological problems.

It was learned that jurists Mehmet Aslan and Fahrettin Kaya, who were held in Prison No 1 in Şanlıurfa province, also suffer from psychological problems for which they take medication. Aslan had applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for his release, but the ECtHR rejected his petition.

It was also reported that judge Ercan Güler, who is being held in Malatya Prison, has been suffering psychological problems.

Hasan Hüseyin Özese

Judges Hasan Hüseyin Özese and Hüsnü Çalmuk, who were among the judges of the Ergenekon case, have been confined in Bolu T-type Prison. Prosecutors Mehmet Ali Pekgüzel and Murat Yönder, who were among the prosecutors of the Ergenekon investigation, are incarcerated in Ankara’s Sincan Prison.

Prosecutor Süleyman Pehlivan, who is a former prosecutor of the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case, has been kept in Keskin Prison in Kırıkkale, while prosecutor Nihat Taşkın, who also played a role in the Balyoz case, has been held in İskenderun T Type Prison.

Other judges and prosecutors who are reportedly kept in solitary confinement in Turkish prisons are as follows:

Silivri Prison in İstanbul: Ertuğrul Ayar, Servet Sağlam, Mahmut Baltacıoğlu, Burhan Alıcı, Muhsin Durmaz, İbrahim Kır, Oktay Acu, Güray Batur, Yusuf Memiş, Muzaffer Özdemir, Mehmet Bahadır, Lütfullah Sami Özcan, Türker İkibaş, Mustafa Köylü, Remzi Gemici, Metin Kukul, Mustafa Altun

Sincan Prison in Ankara: Serkan Kızılyel, Suat Sonay, Yılmaz Erdem, Miktat Başaran, Mustafa Aydın.

Keskin Prison in Kırıkkale: Ali Kaya, İbrahim Günenç, Mine Kaya, Muharrem Karayol, Muzaffer Karadağ, Mustafa Akarsu, Dursun Murat Cevher, Mehmet Çelik, Bekir Sözen, Hüsamettin Uğur, İdris Berber.

Gaziantep L Type Prison: Mehmet Arslantaş, Hüseyin Uğurlu, Hüseyin Baş, Hüseyin Görüşen, Davut Bülbül, Nevzat Yörük, Salih Dağ, Mehmet Emin Kurt, Ömer Yıldırım, Selami Candemir, Hasan Kanlı, Emrullah Aycı.

Hilvan Prison in Şanlıurfa: Tuğrul Hançerkıran, İlkay Aydın, Onur Gündem, Ahmet Kırtepe, Mustafa Aslan, İsmail Turgut Kıldan.

Adana Prison: Mustafa Çolak, Taha Ekim, Şehmuz Akçakaya, Özlem Akçakaya.

Bolu Prison: Yener Yavuz, Yılmaz Şengül, Bahattin Akman, Habib Atasoy, Celaleddin Dönmez, Tahir Kaplan.

Osmaniye T Type Prison: Fatih Taş, Metin Akdemir, Nihat Hırka, Emin Aydın.

Düzce Prison: Atilla Aslan, Osman Kılınçaslan

Kandıra Prison: Yakup Navruz, Seyfullah Çakmak, Rasim İsa Bilgen

Akşehir Prison in Konya: Eren Şenli, Mesut Arkuntaş

Samsun Prison: Naim Karaağaç

Yavuzeli Prison: Ümit Sade

Kahramanmaraş Prison: Durdu Kavak.

Gebze Prison: Ayşe Neşe Gül.

Denizli Type D Prison: Faruk Büyükkaramuklu

Trabzon Prison: Adem Yazar

Van Prison: Hidayet Erkeç

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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