Turkish court reinstates official fired during emergency rule in landmark decision

İstanbul's Çağlayan Courthouse.

A Turkish court on Monday ruled in a precedent-setting case to reinstate a public servant who was fired from her job by a government decree during the state of emergency (OHAL) that was declared in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt, Turkish Minute reported.

The case of Güldalı Kocaoğlu, a staff member at Turkey’s Social Security Institution (SGK) who was accused of terrorist links following the coup attempt, constitutes a first for the tens of thousands of civil servants who were dismissed by OHAL decrees.

The reports said, citing Kocaoğlu’s lawyer, that her case lasted four and a half years and ended with an Ankara court ruling that said that the civil servant had been wrongfully terminated and should be reinstated.

“This is the first decision [by a court] of this sort,’’ lawyer Hüseyin Aygün said, noting that his client immediately returned to work.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported that Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled to cancel a statement included in an OHAL decree that was later passed into law by parliament allowing the firing of public servants who were found by the National Security Council (MGK) to have membership in terrorist organizations, after the end of the state of emergency.

The ruling came after Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) filed suit against several articles of the Law No. 7086 on the Adoption of the Decree-Laws Regarding Taking Certain Measures Under the State of Emergency, which was passed into law on Feb. 6, 2018, more than six months after the end of OHAL.

“Persons who have membership in terrorist organizations, or groups and structures determined by the MGK to act against the national security of the state, have been dismissed from public office without the need for any other action,” the first article of the law, which led to the dismissal of 4,464 officials, said.

According to DW, on June 24 the court unanimously ruled to cancel the statement of “membership” in the first article of the law, arguing that it violated the presumption of innocence since it was the judiciary, not the MGK, that should determine who has membership in a terrorist organization, when OHAL isn’t in place.

The ruling will be published in the Official Gazette in the following months, after the top court announces its reasoned decision, DW said, adding, based on sources from the court, that the ruling can only affect those officials dismissed after the end of OHAL.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a state of emergency on July 20, 2016, days after a coup attempt against his government. More than 130,000 civil servants, including academics, teachers, diplomats and police officers, were dismissed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws issued by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government during the two-year state of emergency, which ended on July 17, 2018.

Former public servants were not only fired from their jobs; they were also banned from working again in the public sector and getting a passport. The government also made it difficult for them to work formally in the private sector.

Most dismissed civil servants are accused of links to the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, but there were many others who belonged to other opposition groups.

The ruling AKP labels the group as a terrorist organization and accuses them of masterminding the abortive putsch, although Gülen and his followers strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

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