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Dissenting judge in Khashoggi trial submits retirement request after demotion

Turkish writer Hatice Cengiz (R), fiancée of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi, poses next to a portrait of Khashoggi after unveiling it on the National Mall in Washington, DC., on October 1, 2021, during a memorial ceremony marking the third anniversary of his murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)

A Turkish judge who cast a dissenting vote against the transfer of the murder trial of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Riyadh has submitted a retirement request after he was demoted by the country’s top judicial body, according to the Karar daily.

Nimet Demir, head of the panel of the judges at the İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court, which in a controversial move in April decided to halt the murder trial in absentia of 26 suspects linked to the killing of the journalist and transfer it to Riyadh, was among the more than 5,000 judges and prosecutors replaced by Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) under a summer decree released last weekend.

Demir submitted a petition to the HSK on Tuesday requesting his retirement after a request to take annual leave was rejected, Karar said.

“In order to make the right decision and discuss it with my family, I asked for annual leave from the board. Today I received the answer, which was negative. I got the feeling they wanted me to quit, so I have just submitted my retirement request. I am going into retirement,” Demir told the daily on Tuesday.

According to the judge, his name was added to the list of judges and prosecutors to be replaced at the very last minute because members of the judiciary are normally informed months before a transfer so that they can begin preparations for moving.

He said his replacement is the result of the fact that the government interferes in the work of the HSK, which is supposed to be an independent body.

Demir submitted a dissenting opinion to the court’s decision, which was labelled as politically motivated, angered rights groups and dashed hopes about justice being served in the murder of Khashoggi.

The 59-year-old journalist was killed inside the Saudi Consulate General in İstanbul on Oct. 2, 2018 in a gruesome murder that shocked the world. Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to get papers for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancée.

Demir was appointed as a judge to the southern province of Kahramanmaraş under the HSK’s summer decree, interpreted as a demotion for an experienced judge like him.

The HSK replaced 5,426 judges and prosecutors in its summer decree.

The Turkish government is being widely criticized for taking the judiciary under its control and imposing pressure on its members to make politically motivated decisions. The government has removed thousands of judges and prosecutors from their posts on coup charges since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

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