Turkey seeks extra time from ECtHR to submit action plan on landmark ruling

The Turkish government has requested extra time from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to submit an action plan requested by the court in line with its landmark ruling last year about a teacher convicted of terrorism due to his alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, Turkish Minute reported, citing the TR724 news website.

The ECtHR’s Grand Chamber decided in September 2023 that Turkey had violated three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of former teacher Yüksel Yalçınkaya: Article 6, which concerns the right to a fair trial; Article 7 on no punishment without law; and Article 11 on freedom of assembly and association.

The Grand Chamber based its ruling on Yalçınkaya’s alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone app; membership in a labor union and an association affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement; and having an account at the now-closed Bank Asya, which are all considered signs of membership in the Gülen movement and criminal evidence.

The Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The court’s ruling established that the use of ByLock, once widely available online and considered a secret tool of communication among supporters of the Gülen movement, does not constitute a reliable piece of evidence or a criminal offense in addition to other actions mentioned above.

In that judgment the ECtHR underscored that the violations in the conviction were “systemic in nature,” calling on Turkey to take general measures to address the underlying problems, reminding of the presence of over 8,000 similar complaints on its docket.

Turkey was supposed to submit an “action plan” to the ECtHR by May 26 detailing the measures it will take in relation to similar rights violations, but it has asked that this deadline be extended to August 1, according to The Arrested Lawyers Initiative, which tweeted an excerpt from the court’s website showing Turkey’s request for additional time.

Meanwhile, six Europe-based rights organizations have filed a petition with the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe asking it to schedule supervision of Turkey’s implementation of the Yalçınkaya ruling at the earliest convenience, preferably at its September session.

The Justice Square Foundation, the Italian Federation for Human Rights, Statewatch, the Cross Border Jurists Association, The Arrested Lawyers Initiative and Solidarity with Others complained that neither the Turkish government nor the Turkish judiciary has provided any positive indications regarding the implementation of the Yalçınkaya ruling and has so far failed to submit an action plan.

“The genuine and ideal solution is the proper implementation of the Yalçınkaya judgment to the ongoing cases and the reopening of similar cases that have already been brought before the European Court,” the rights groups said.

Earlier this week, the ECtHR notified Ankara of 1,000 applications in its docket for convictions of Gülen movement membership over the use of ByLock based on the court’s Yalçınkaya ruling.

The court previously gave notice to the government of 2,000 cases on similar grounds.

Despite the ECtHR decision, the detention and prosecution of real and perceived Gülen followers due to their ByLock use or other acts considered a crime by the Turkish courts but not the ECtHR, continue to occur.

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