Turkish court awards purge victim compensation for emotional distress

A Turkish court has ordered the state to pay damages to an individual whose name has not been released summarily dismissed from their job by a government decree-law as part of a post-coup purge in Turkey in the aftermath of a coup attempt in 2016.

Attorney Süreyya Kardelen Yarlı shared the court’s decision on social media, highlighting the legal victory in a post.

“This decision officially acknowledges the emotional damage suffered by my client,” Yarlı said, adding, “I hope this ruling sets a precedent for others who experienced similar injustices under the emergency decree-laws.”

“During the state of emergency [that followed the coup attempt], many individuals were wrongfully dismissed under decree-laws, with limited avenues for legal recourse. However, a 2022 ruling delivered by the Constitutional Court paved the way for compensation claims for emotional distress for those reinstated,” Yarlı explained.

The court’s decision emphasized that the wrongful dismissal caused severe emotional distress, damaging the individual’s honor and dignity. The court awarded compensation for the emotional harm suffered, underscoring the responsibility of the authorities in such cases.

The post-coup crackdown mainly targeted followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the abortive putsch. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

A mass dismissal of public sector workers as part of the crackdown was widely criticized by human rights groups and international organizations for its lack of due process and effective remedy.

In addition to removing people from their jobs and permanently excluding them from the civil service, the decree-laws also had secondary implications such as flagging individuals on social security databases in a way that intimidates potential private sector employers and travel bans preventing victims from seeking employment abroad.

While the Turkish government set up a review commission under pressure from the Council of Europe, the commission, too, was criticized for its opaque procedures, failure to provide an individual examination, ambiguous criteria and lack of independence and impartiality.

The review commission ended up reinstating only 14 percent of applicants while rejecting more than 100,000.

The crackdown also targeted political opponents of the government, Kurdish activists and human rights defenders, among others.

Some purge victims who wanted to flee the country to avoid the post-coup crackdown and took dangerous journeys across the Evros River in northwestern Turkey or the Aegean Sea perished on their way to Greece. They had to leave the country illegally due to the lack of valid passports.

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