Turkey’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, has in a landmark decision ruled to reinstate 178 judges and prosecutors who had been removed from their jobs due to their alleged links to a faith-based group following a coup attempt in 2016, the pro-government Sabah daily reported.
The 5th chamber of the court, according to Sabah’s report on Friday, also ruled for the payment of damages to the members of the judiciary.
The names of the judges and prosecutors who will be reinstated have been forwarded to the top judicial body, the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK). It is not yet known whether the HSK will appeal the decision regarding its former members. If the HSK files an appeal, the final decision will be made by the Council of State’s Chamber of Administrative Cases.
Following a coup attempt in July 2016, judges and prosecutors were among the first group of more than 130,000 public servants who were fired. A total of 4,156 judges and prosecutors were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.
The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding the failed coup and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
The 178 judges and prosecutors who were expelled from their posts by the HSK based on emergency decrees issued by the government following the coup attempt challenged the HSK’s decisions at the Council of State and demanded their reinstatement.
Sabah said among the judges and prosecutors reinstated by the Council of State were those whose links to the Gülen movement had been determined based on their use of the ByLock encrypted messaging application, witness statements, phone calls and phone signals with other Gülen followers, attending events organized by the movement’s members or making donations to Gülen-linked foundations. The Council of State ruled that these acts were not sufficient to prove the prosecutors and judges’ links to the Gülen movement.
Following the coup attempt the Turkish government accepted such activities as having an account at the now-closed Bank Asya, one of Turkey’s largest commercial banks at the time, using ByLock, which was available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, and subscribing to the Zaman daily or other publications affiliated with members of the movement as benchmarks for identifying and arresting alleged followers of the Gülen movement on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.
The Council of State’s decision has come in line with a decision from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHtR) earlier this week, which ruled that Turkey violated the European Convention on Human Rights by detaining 167 judges and prosecutors after the failed 2016 coup, holding that Turkey is to pay each applicant 5,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages.
With its latest ruling, the number of judges and prosecutors whose applications have been upheld by the ECtHR in their cases against Turkey has risen to 847.