Turkish court releases UN judge arrested over Gülen links

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Aydın Sefa Akay, a judge for the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT)

An Ankara court on Wednesday ruled to release Aydın Sefa Akay, a judge for the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) who was in pre-trial detention in Turkey over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

Akay had been behind bars since September because a smart phone application named ByLock was found to have been installed in his phone.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is the top communication tool among the followers of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the putsch.

In the final hearing of his trial at the Ankara 16th High Criminal Court on Wednesday, Akay was handed down a sentence of seven years, six months on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, yet the court decided to release him subject to the imposition of a travel ban.

If Akay’s sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals, he will be sent to prison to serve his sentence.

On Jan. 31, MICT ordered Turkey to release Akay 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.
He earlier described himself as a Freemason in an effort to prove he had no links to the Gülen movement and said he downloaded ByLock from the Google Play Store to communicate with fellow Masons.

The military coup attempt on July 15 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.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, 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.

According to a report by the state-run Anadolu news agency on May 28, 154,694 individuals have been detained and 50,136 have been jailed due to alleged Gülen links since the failed coup attempt.

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