A United Nations legal panel has ordered Turkey to release a judge who is among thousands of people arrested over their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement in the aftermath of a failed coup on July 15.
The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) on Tuesday ordered Ankara to free Judge Aydın Sefa Akay, who also serves as a UN jurist, by Feb. 14 and halt legal proceedings against him.
Akay is a member of a panel of judges that is reviewing the case of a former Rwandan government minister who was convicted of involvement in his country’s 1994 genocide.
In a statement, MICT says the order to release Akay is legally binding under a UN Security Council resolution requiring states to comply with the mechanism’s orders.
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.
Akay in his testimony denied any connection to the movement, saying he downloaded ByLock from the Google Play Store to communicate with fellow Masons.
Turkish prosecutors claim ByLock is the top communication tool among the followers of the Gülen movement.
Turkey experienced a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip 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.
More than 135,000 people have been purged from state bodies and 43,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian.