Turkey’s judicial council rewards judges and prosecutors for their role in gov’t-led prosecutions

Yüksel Kocaman and Erdogan
Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman came to public attention in Turkey when he visited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at his presidential palace with his bride on his wedding day and received gifts there in September 2020.

Turkey’s Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) on Friday named 11 judges and prosecutors, many of whom played critical roles in government-led prosecutions, as new members of the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The list included Selfet Giray, chief justice of the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, which ruled the day before on the most important mass trial, known as the Akıncı case, regarding a coup attempt in 2016. The court delivered life sentences without parole to 291 defendants and life with the possibility of parole to 46 defendants. Eighty defendants were acquitted of charges and 58 received lesser sentences.

Turkey experienced a controversial military coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016 which, according to many, was a false flag aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.

According to the Turkish government, Akıncı Airbase was the command center for the failed coup, and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was held there after allegedly being taken hostage by coup plotters. Everyone at the airbase that night was accused of taking part in the coup.

Gen Akar himself claimed he was held hostage at an airbase outside Ankara by the coup plotters. Yet, the CCTV footage of the night showed Akar leaving the headquarters and taking a helicopter without any sign of coercion. In one scene, Akar was seen asking one of his would-be abductors to bring his cap and the soldier rushing to follow his orders.

The courts have now concluded almost all of the 289 trials related to the coup attempt and have convicted more than 4,000 people.

Legal professionals have criticized the use of mass trials against thousands accused of even vague involvement in the coup, including convictions handed down to army cadets and others who were ordered out onto the streets that night with little knowledge of what was going on.

Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman, who ordered the detention of 82 prominent pro-Kurdish politicians last September, is also among those appointed to serve at the Supreme Court of Appeals. The detentions had come only a few days after Kocaman visited Turkish President Erdoğan at the presidential palace with his bride immediately after their wedding and received gifts there.

Another well-known figure who was selected to serve at the Supreme Court of Appeals is İrfan Fidan, the İstanbul chief public prosecutor. Fidan had taken over what is known as the December 17 and December 25, 2013 corruption investigations, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle, after the prosecutors and police officers working on the case were removed from their positions.

Fidan dropped the charges against 96 suspects including Bilal Erdoğan, son of President Erdoğan, four government ministers and Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, who later admitted in a New York court to leading a sanctions busting scheme that had helped Iran evade US sanctions with the help of Turkish banks, yielding Iran an estimated $13 billion. Zarrab also admitted to bribing senior politicians and bureaucrats in the process.

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