UN judge Akay faces 15-years of jail term in Turkey over coup charges

UN Judge Aydın sefa Akar was arrested on September 21 by Turkish authorities despite his diplomatic immunity over links to the coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Under arrest in Turkey for 8 months as part of a massive post-coup witch hunt targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement, Aydın Sefa Akay, an Ankara-born United Nations (UN) judge faces up to 15 years of prison sentence.

Arrested on Sept 26, 2016, Judge Akay is accused of membership to the Gülen movement and attempting to abolish constitutional order and murder in Turkey. As a judge on the Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), Akay has repeatedly denied any links to the movement, describing himself as a Freemason.

An indictment prepared by an İstanbul prosecutor, claims that Akay allagedly used the controversial ByLock mobile application, which the government claims to be the top communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement. The prosecutor seeks between 7.5 to 15 years of prison sentence for Akay on charge of membership to a terrorist organization alone, according to Turkish media.

An international court had ruled on March 6 that Turkey is infringing the judicial independence of a UN war crimes tribunal by holding one of its judges in prison despite an order to release him and had referred the matter to the UN Security Council. The UN court had earlier ordered Ankara to release Judge Akay.

Akay, a judge on the MICT, had been due to hear a request for the case of a 1994 Rwandan genocide convict to be reopened. On Jan. 31, MICT ordered Turkey to release him by Feb. 14 and halt legal proceedings against Akay who is among tens of thousands of people arrested over their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement in the aftermath of the failed coup.

In a statement, MICT had said the order to release Akay is legally binding under a UN Security Council resolution requiring states to comply with the mechanism’s orders. In a letter, Turkey’s permanent representative to the UN, Feridun Sinirlioğlu, said Turkey is a country that values the rule of law and its international commitments, while adding that Akay was arrested over being a suspected member of the ‘Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).’

‘FETÖ’ is a pejorative acronym that Turkey’s political Islamist government has used to designate the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization. Whereas, Gülen and his sympathizers have been a vocal critic of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on corruption and aiding and abetting armed Jihadists in Syria.

Gülen, dubbed as one of “The World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals” in a list put together by the magazines Foreign Policy and Prospect in 2008. The Gülen movement focuses on science education, community involvement, interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Under the direct influence and directives of Erdoğan, Turkish government has launched a witch hunt campaign to root out alleged supporters of Gülen movement in Turkey and abroad.

Saying that the charges against Akay are not related to his duty in the ICC, Sinirlioğlu had noted that his activities outside of that duty cannot be handled in the framework of immunity, thus Akay can be tried in Turkey over “the crimes he committed in the country.”

Sinirlioğlu added that Turkey will not fulfill the demands of a mechanism that “abuses its authorities” and that the ICC “intervened into Turkish law openly and worryingly.”

Akay in his testimony denied any connection to the movement, saying he downloaded ByLock from the Google Play Store to communicate with fellow Masons. Judge Akay has also denied any links to the Gülen movement during a hearing at the Ankara 16thHigh Criminal Court on March 15.

“Using ByLock does not make me a Gülenist,” said Akay and added in his testimony that he used ByLock along with other instant messaging programs. “Not everyone who uses this application is a Gülenist. I downloaded ByLock, but without a special code. If only 1 percent of the people who used this program are not Gülenists, then I am one of them.”

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ had announced more than 4,000 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed over links to the Gülen movement and that none of the remaining judges and prosecutors have been left uninvestigated. According to the t24 news website, the government has dismissed 4,238 of Turkey’s 14,661 judges and prosecutors since July 15, 2016.

Turkey experienced a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, 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. (SCF with turkeypurge.com) June 2, 2017

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