Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) downgraded the status of Antalya Regional Court of Justice judge Şenol Demir and transferred him to Konya province after he refused to accept the use of ByLock, a smart phone application that authorities believe is a communication tool between members of the Gülen movement, as evidence of a crime.
According to a story in the Evrensel daily on Sunday, Demir was appointed as as a judge in Konya by a HSYK 1st Chamber decision taken on May 9.
Demir recently reversed a judgment by a Denizli court that sentenced Hacer Aydın, a Gülen movement follower, to six years, three months in prison over the use of ByLock.
In his judgment Demir said “ByLock alone, contrary to what is suggested by MİT [National Intelligence Agency], cannot be evidence of a crime.”
Turkish authorities claim that ByLock is the top communication tool among members of the faith-based Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15. Critics, however, have lambasted the government for detaining thousands simply for using a mobile application.
A letter sent by Turkey’s Security Directorate General to all police units in the country last October told police officers to obtain confessions from individuals who had been detained due to their use of ByLock because mere use of the application is not considered a crime.
Tens of thousands of civil servants have either been dismissed or arrested for using the application. Critics say the use of a technological application is not a criminal activity nor is it evidence of membership in a terrorist organization.
According to reports in the Turkish media, Turkey’s Security Directorate General and MİT have an IP address list of the people who downloaded ByLock, but they are not in possession of the content of the conversations held using the application.
Judicial experts suggest that a person cannot be accused for using a certain means of communication, adding that they can be accused only if there is an element of crime in their messages. They also say that a court order is required to conduct technical surveillance and to be able to present the findings in court as evidence.
Technical surveillance data collected without a court order is not considered legal evidence by Turkish courts.