Turkish prosecutor suspended after launching probe of ‘unlawful’ circulars for COVID measures

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A Şanlıurfa prosecutor who on Tuesday announced on social media that he had launched an investigation into circulars released by the Interior Ministry regarding coronavirus measures he claims are unlawful has been suspended by Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), Turkish media reported on Thursday.

Eyyüp Akbulut, a public prosecutor in the Viranşehir district of Şanlıurfa, released a video on YouTube titled “A peace declaration: pandemic, restrictions and law” and stated that he would investigate measures taken against COVID-19 in Turkey, including stay-at-home orders, mask requirements and travel bans that he claims are unlawful, knowing that he might lose his job for doing so.

According to the Turkish media the second chamber of the HSK unanimously decided to temporarily suspend Akbulut, citing the judicial and administrative investigations launched into the prosecutor and saying that Akbulut continuing in his job would damage the authority and effectiveness of the judiciary.

The prosecutor argued in the video that the measures taken by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to curb the pandemic, including the vaccination rollout, needed to be investigated in light of the latest scientific data, arguments and allegations against them.

The steps taken by the government during the pandemic have caused people to suffer and cannot be reconciled with the principles of a state of law, Akbulut claimed, noting that he was showing the courage his profession demands while many others who agree with him are afraid to speak out.

Following Akbulut’s post on YouTube, the Şanlıurfa Bar Association released a statement endorsing the prosecutor, saying that his move has given hope to the masses who have long not seen any action hinting at an independent judiciary.

The bar association then called on other members of the judiciary to act in the same courageous way to restore public trust in the institution.

Turkey disbarred more than 4,000 judges and prosecutors immediately after an abortive military coup in July 2016 over alleged ties to the faith-based Gülen movement, which it accused of orchestrating the attempted putsch. The movement denies any involvement.

The mass disbarment of members of the judiciary is believed by many to have had a chilling effect on the entire justice system, intimidating the remaining judges and prosecutors into doing the government’s bidding by launching politically motivated investigations into critics.

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