Turkish judge Aydın Sefa Akay, who is serving on the UN war crimes panel and was arrested in September as part of a government witch-hunt following a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, said in his defense that he is a Freemason, not a Gülen movement sympathizer, contrary to the charges that led to his arrest.
Judge Akay, who was arrested in September for having a smart phone application called ByLock on his phone, denied links to the Gülen movement and described himself as a Mason.
Thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey simply for downloading ByLock, an application the government claims is a secret messaging system among Gülen sympathizers. The government accused the Gülen movement of plotting the July 15 coup attempt and has purged hundreds of thousands of people since the day following the putsch.
According to a Hürriyet daily report, Akay in his testimony denied links to the Gülen movement, saying he downloaded ByLock from the Google Play Store to communicate with fellow Masons.
Akay was also asked why he has books by former editor-in-chief of Zaman, Ekrem Dumanlı and Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in his house. In response, Akay said he has over two thousand books, but his lifestyle is not compatible with the Gülen movement’
In addition, Akay was asked questions such as his trips abroad, when and how he met his wife, where he spends his vacations, whether he went on holiday with any members of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whether he has changed his phone after July 15, in which hospital his kids were born. The Turkish government to determine links to Gülen movement and institutions affiliated with the movement though they could not be considered a crime by any law often uses these type of questions.
Meanwhile, the United Nations asked for Akay’s release as Theodor Meron, the president of the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), told the UN General Assembly that Turkey had repeatedly ignored his requests to visit Akay since his arrest and that this risked violating judicial independence.
“As a result of his detention, the proceedings have come to a standstill,” he said.
Akay, who was trying crimes from the Yugoslav wars and the Rwandan genocide, was arrested on Sept. 21 despite his diplomatic immunity, over links to the coup attempt on July 15.
The 66-year-old judge is a member of a five-member UN panel assigned in July to review the judgment of former Rwandan planning minister Augustin Ngirabatware.
Meron demanded Turkey “immediately release judge Akay from detention and enable him to resume his lawfully-assigned judicial functions” on the UN panel.
Akay was appointed by Turkey as a judge within the tribunal. He also formerly served as a diplomat for Turkey.
The MICT was established by the United Nations Security Council in December 2010 to carry out a number of essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), after the completion of their respective mandates.
Since the attempted coup in July, Turkish authorities have cracked down on those with suspected ties to US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is the inspiration behind the Gülen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet Movement.
While Gülen continuously has denied the accusations by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey blames Gülen for inciting the July coup attempt.
More than 120,000 people have been sacked, over 74,000 detained and nearly 36,000 arrested in the military, security forces, judiciary, civil service, education and media in Turkey since a state of emergency was declared after the failed coup.