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Arrested Turkish UN judge appeals to Constitutional Court for diplomatic immunity

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Turkish judge Aydın Sefa Akay, who serves 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, has submitted an appeal to Turkey’s Constitutional Court for diplomatic immunity.

In providing full diplomatic immunity, the Security Council makes no exception with respect to nationals of a state or specifies that they should receive only functional immunity, as is claimed by Turkey,” the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) said in a written reply to the Hürriyet daily, noting that it does not accept Turkey’s argument of functional immunity for Akay.

Judge Akay, who was arrested in September for having a smart phone application called ByLock, denied links to the Gülen movement and described himself as a Freemason.

We confirm that Turkey’s Constitutional Court has been petitioned in relation to this matter,” the MICT said, referring to Akay’s individual application.

On Oct. 27, the United Nations asked for Akay’s release as Theodor Meron, the president of 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.

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.

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 the former editor-in-chief of Zaman, Ekrem Dumanlı, and Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in his house. In response, Akay said he owns over 2,000 books but that his lifestyle is not compatible with that of the Gülen movement.

In addition, Akay was asked questions such as details of 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 changed his phone after July 15 and in which hospital his children were born. The Turkish government, in an attempt to determine links to the Gülen movement and institutions affiliated with it, often uses these types of questions though they could not be considered a crime by any law.

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