Turkish gov’t launches probe into German prosecutor over financial support to family of a jailed judge

The Turkish government has launched an investigation into a German prosecutor and financial support given by the European Association of Judges (EAJ) to the family of Turkish judge Mesut Orta, who has been jailed over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

According to a report by the Free Judges blog, Orta, for whom a detention warrant was issued, applied for financial support especially for his family while he remained at large, making contact with the EAJ via e-mail. The correspondence regarding the financial support  provided by the EAJ was found on Orta’s computer, seized when he was detained.

It was found that 1,300 euros were transferred to the bank account of judge Orta’s wife in two separate transactions by Stuttgart prosecutor P.S., who is also a member of the EAJ. The media outlets under the control of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan alleged that the German prosecutor provided help for Orta so that he would be able to remain in hiding.

Judge Orta, arbitrarily held in pre-trial detention on terrorism charges, is accused of accepting financial support from the EAJ. According to reports in the press, Orta, the EAJ and Stutgart prosecutor P.S. are subjects of the investigation.

The Turkish government has arrested a total of 2,431 judges and prosecutors and dismissed 4,424 others since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Constitutional Court general assembly ruling revealed in August 2017.

The report also said thousands of judges and prosecutors in Turkey have been unduly dismissed or arrested. Their families were forced to leave their allocated apartments, all their assets were seized and their bank accounts were blocked. In the face of such a tragic situation, the EAJ decided to lend financial support to their colleagues and their families doomed to hunger in Turkey.

Launching an investigation into foreign lawyers in Turkey is not limited to this incident. Previously, after a case was filed against controversial Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab in the US for paying bribes to Erdoğan and his cabinet members and for violating US sanctions on Iran. Turkish prosecutors who are staunch supporters of Erdoğan launched investigation into federal prosecutors in the US on charges of “giving support to the armed terror organisation.”

The report also stated that the judges and prosecutors in the Turkish judiciary, which is under the control of Erdoğan, have continued to cause problems for hundreds of thousands of opponents and colleagues on baseless grounds.

The blog also provided information about Orta. Starting out in criminal law, Orta was then appointed to the Data Processing Department of the Justice Ministry as a rapporteur judge as he had a degree in computer programming in addition to a law degree.

Then in 2011, he was appointed to head the department developing the UYAP (Turkish e-justice system) software, recognized by many international institutions including the United Nations. With a Ph.D. in information technologies and having published book in the field, Orta had lectured at universities and the Turkish Justice Academy.

Judge Orta chose to remain in hiding rather surrender because thousands of his colleagues had been arbitrarily arrested for alleged membership in a terror organisation since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. However, he was apprehended and detained upon being found hiding in a house in Diyarbakır.

The report said police beat him and his fellow judges when they raided the house in which they were staying. Evidence of battery was recorded in doctors’ reports at the hospital where the judges were taken. Orta and his colleagues, who were battered, insulted and threatened, filed a complaint about the police officers, but the prosecutor’s office decided not to prosecute. However, the prosecutor’s office seeks 22,5 years in prison for Orta for allegedly managing an armed terror organisation under the cover of his senior position in the Justice Ministry.

A comprehensive report titled “Turkey’s descent into arbitrariness: The end of rule of law” published by SCF in April 2017 provides detailed information on how the rule of law has lost meaning in the Turkish context, confirming the effective collapse of all domestic judicial and administrative remedies available for Turkish citizens who lodge complaints for rights violations.

It lists many cases showing the ways in which Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan and his associates in the government manipulate the judiciary through loyalists and partisans. An unprecedented intimidation campaign against independent judges and prosecutors including unlawful arrests and arbitrary assets seizures was pursued by political authorities

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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