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Turkey condemned by the ECHR for the “arbitrary” pre-trial detention of 427 magistrates

This is one of the many cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) since the failed coup in Turkey in the summer of 2016. The Court condemned Turkey on Tuesday 23 November for the detention provisional « Arbitrary » of 427 magistrates, five years after the massive purge in the Turkish administration, army and intellectual circles which followed the failed coup.

Seven European judges unanimously considered that Ankara had violated the « Right to liberty » of these magistrates, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights signed by the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, including Turkey.

These detentions, they noted, were not decided. « In accordance with a procedure provided for by law » and were not « Strictly required by the requirements of the situation ». The ECHR recalled that « The requirements of legal certainty » are « Even more important » in the case of attacks on the independence of judges, « Taking into account the importance of the judiciary in a democratic state ». The court ordered Ankara to pay 5,000 euros to each of the parties for non-pecuniary damage.

Mass revocations

These judges and prosecutors, who practiced in many jurisdictions, including the Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court, had been arrested and detained for « Suspicion of belonging to FETO », details the ECHR in a press release. In the terminology of the Turkish authorities, FETO is the acronym for the “Terrorist Organization of Fethullah Supporters” Gülen, accused of having plotted the coup attempt.

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Tens of thousands of people were arrested after the failed coup of July 15, 2016, in unprecedented purges against alleged supporters of Fethullah Gülen, bête noire of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but also against Kurdish opponents, soldiers, intellectuals and journalists.

On this occasion, a decree had resulted in the dismissal of 2,847 magistrates, suspected of belonging to the FETO, the power considering this commitment « Incompatible with the principle of impartiality », recalls the ECHR. In the following months, 1,393 other magistrates had been dismissed, again according to the Court.

« Attempt to overturn »

Among the cases before the ECHR, the fate reserved by the Turkish justice to the famous journalist and writer Ahmet Altan, founder of the opposition newspaper Taraf, had sparked an uproar abroad. Arrested in September 2016, he was sentenced to prison for « Attempt to overthrow the constitutional order ». Ahmet Altan was finally released on April 14, 2021 following a decision by the Turkish Court of Cassation, issued the day after an ECHR judgment condemning Ankara for his detention.

On the other hand, other figures of Turkish society were kept in detention, also suspected of having supported the attempted coup, such as businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, whose ECHR demanded in vain. « Immediate release » in 2019. The Council of Europe has threatened Ankara with sanctions, which could be adopted at its next session, from November 30 to December 2, if he is not released by then.

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