Turkey’s judicial council promotes judge who defied Constitutional Court ruling

Turkey’s Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) has promoted judge Akın Gürlek, who presided over an İstanbul court that refused to implement a Constitutional Court ruling on opposition lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu, Deutsche Welle Turkish Service reported on Monday.

According to Alican Uludağ’s story, the HSK promoted Gürlek to the position of “first class judge” despite its previous decision not to promote judges whose verdicts were overturned by the Constitutional Court for rights violations.

Gürlek was the presiding judge of İstanbul’s 14th High Criminal Court, which refused to retry main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Enis Berberoğlu, claiming that the Constitutional Court’s order for a retrial was “interference in the decision made within the jurisdiction of our court.”

Berberoğlu, a former journalist, was sentenced to five years, 10 months in prison in 2017 for his alleged role in leaking confidential documents about National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks carrying weapons to Syria.

He was found guilty of espionage and of providing footage of the trucks to the opposition Cumhuriyet daily. Cumhuriyet published the original report about the shipment based on a video that allegedly came from Berberoğlu.

The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court dropped the charges against Berberoğlu following a second ruling by the Constitutional Court in February 2021. Berberoğlu’s status as a deputy for the CHP and his parliamentary immunity were restored after the ruling.

Judge Gürlek is known for his controversial rulings including the sentencing of Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş to four years, eight months in prison for spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization and the sentencing of the CHP’s İstanbul provincial chairman, Canan Kaftancıoğlu, to nine years, eight months due to her social media posts.

According to Uludağ, following DW’s story the HSK removed its decision to promote Gürlek from its website.

The HSK, Turkey’s top judicial administrative body, was set up to ensure an independent judiciary, but over time it has become a political instrument for putting the judiciary under government control.

The Stockholm Center for Freedom’s comprehensive report about the HSK, “Turkey’s Judicial Council: Guarantor or Annihilator of Judicial Independence,” can be reached here.

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