Turkey is infringing the judicial independence of a United Nations (UN) war crimes tribunal by holding one of its judges in prison despite an order to release him, the court ruled on Monday, referring the matter to the UN Security Council.
The UN court had earlier ordered Ankara to release Judge Aydın Sefa Akay, a Turkish national who was arrested last year on suspicion of involvement in failed coup attempt against Turkey’s government on July 15, 2016.
Akay, a judge on the Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), had been due to hear a request for the case of a 1994 Rwandan genocide convict to be reopened.
MICT had ordered Turkey to release judge Akay who is among thousands of people arrested over their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement in the aftermath of the failed coup. MICT had ordered Ankara to free Judge Aydın Sefa Akay by Feb. 14 and halt legal proceedings against him.
In a statement, MICT had said the order to release Akay is legally binding under a UN Security Council resolution requiring states to comply with the mechanism’s orders. Judge Akay, who was arrested in Sept. 2016 for having a smart phone application called ByLock, denied links to the Gülen movement and described himself as a Freemason.
Akay in his testimony denied any connection to the movement, saying he downloaded ByLock from the Google Play Store to communicate with fellow Masons. Turkish prosecutors claim ByLock is the top communication tool among the followers of the Gülen movement.
Turkey experienced a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 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 despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.
Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, 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.
In the currently ongoing post-coup purge, over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10. As of March 1, 93,248 people were being held without charge, with an additional 46,274 in pre-trial detention.
Also, a total of 7,316 academics were dismissed and 4,070 judges and prosecutors were purged over alleged coup involvement or terrorist links.
March 6, 2016