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ECtHR gives notice to Ankara over reassignment of 169 judges before 2016 coup

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Monday gave notice to the Turkish government on cases concerning the reassignment of 169 judges in 2014 and 2016, asking Ankara to submit its observations by May 17, 2021.

According to the press release issued by the ECtHR, the court issued notices on two groups of cases.

The first group of cases, referred to by the court as “Kartal and 48 other applications v. Turkey,” concerns the termination of the terms of office of 49 judges sitting on the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) in 2014.

On February 27, 2014 Law no. 6524 entered into force, which provided that the terms of office of the judges of the HSYK would end at that time.

The second group of cases, referred to by the ECtHR as Olcay and 119 other applications v. Turkey, concerns the termination of the terms of office of judges sitting on the Supreme Administrative Court and the Court of Cassation in 2016.

“In both groups of cases, the applicants were appointed as judges in other courts,” the press release read, adding that the applicants rely on several articles of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), particularly Article 6 (right to a fair hearing).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time, lashed out at the judiciary in 2013 after a graft probe targeting the highest echelons of his government exposed a bribery scandal. Erdoğan accused the judges and prosecutors as well as police officers of working for the Gülen movement, a faith-based group critical of his administration.

Up until 2016, Erdoğan tried to redesign the judiciary by appointing loyalists to critical posts. In July 2016, a botched coup took place, the aftermath of which saw an unprecedented crackdown, mainly on Erdoğan’s opponents.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government removed more than 130,000 civil servants, including some 4,000 judges and prosecutors, from their jobs due to alleged Gülen links.

According to a statement by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in November 2020, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there were 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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