Turkey’s Constitutional Court rules monitoring of detainee’s lawyer meeting a rights violation

The main building of Turkey's Constitutional Court.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that monitoring a detainee’s meeting with their lawyer constitutes a violation of rights, the Diken news website reported.

Celaleddin Kolutek, who was detained on July 17, 2016 as part of an investigation into his alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, had his meetings with his lawyers monitored by officials. A disciplinary investigation was initiated into Kolutek based on statements he allegedly made during these monitored meetings.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations in 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that they accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Following the failed coup, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Over 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces, were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

During the state of emergency following the coup attempt, measures were implemented allowing for the surveillance of meetings between detainees accused of membership in the movement and their lawyers.

The Constitutional Court reviewed the appeal made by Kolutek’s family and determined that the surveillance violated the detainee’s “right to respect for private life” under Article 20 and the “right to a fair trial” under Article 36 of the Turkish Constitution.

In its detailed ruling, the high court noted that the decision to monitor lawyer meetings was made by the Penal Institution Administration and Observation Board, not by a prosecutor, and that the decision was general and not based on specific individual circumstances. The court emphasized that this measure was not justified by the specific requirements of the situation.

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