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Judicial council disbars Turkish prosecutor arrested on drug-trafficking charges

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Turkish public prosecutor Osman Yarbaş, who was arrested last month on drug-trafficking charges, has been disbarred by the country’s top judicial council, local media reported on Friday.

Following an operation carried out by the Konya Police Department on a network trafficking drugs from Turkey’s southern Adana province to the central Anatolian city of Konya, the police identified Yarbaş as the person running the network through evidence obtained from the phone of a courier, who was also a police officer.

According to a previous report by the NTV news website, the police retrieved WhatsApp messages on the courier’s phone and found that Yarbaş, a public prosecutor overseeing the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office Terrorism Crimes Investigation Bureau, had given instructions to him about a shipment of drugs.

After he was suspended on May 11 by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK), which also assigned an inspector to investigate his conduct, Yarbaş was arrested on drug-trafficking charges in June.

Turkish media reports said on Friday the HSK had disbarred the public prosecutor.

After a 2016 coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government dismissed 4,156 judges and prosecutors, nearly a third of the total number at the time, which was followed by the mass recruitment of replacements.

Yarbaş was hired as a prosecutor in 2017, after the post-coup purge targeting the judiciary resulted in a shortage of staff.

According to a report by Italian judge Luca Perilli, as of December 2019, at least 45 percent of Turkey’s roughly 21,000 judges and prosecutors had three years of experience or less.

Hakkı Köylü, a lawmaker from Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), acknowledged to Reuters in 2020 that some judges and prosecutors “have been appointed without adequate training.”

Critics accuse Erdoğan of recruiting pro-AKP lawyers as judges and prosecutors. On top of that, 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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