A UN court condemned Turkey today for sentencing one of its top judges to seven years in jail on charges of links to a group blamed for an attempted coup last July. Retired ambassador Aydin Sefa Akay, a top judge attached to the UN’s Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, was sentenced in Ankara yesterday to seven years and six months, the MICT said in a statement. MICT president Judge Theodor Meron “deeply regrets this action of the Turkish authorities, in further breach of Judge Akay’s protected status under the international legal framework,” the Hague-based tribunal said in a statement.
Akay’s arrest in September last year, his detention and a legal case against him “are inconsistent with the assertion of his diplomatic immunity by the United Nations,” the MICT said. Akay was released under judicial supervision pending confirmation of the verdict by Turkey’s top appeals court. The MICT stressed “the verdict has yet to acquire legal finality”. Meron said although he welcomed “as a humanitarian matter that Judge Akay has been provisionally released,” he remains “gravely concerned.” He called on Ankara to “take urgent steps to respect the protected status of Judge Akay and to resolve the situation consistent with international law.”
Akay was charged with “membership in an armed terror group” over alleged links to the organisation of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher blamed by Ankara for the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He had vehemently denied the charges, which had caused an uproar among the international legal community.
The court found Akay guilty of using Bylock, a communications service which Ankara claims was especially created for Gulen supporters, the Dogan news agency reported. Akay was released pending the ruling from the supreme appeals court, a date for which has not been set. If the verdict is confirmed by the higher court, he will go back to jail.
The court also placed an overseas travel ban on Akay, Dogan reported, meaning there is no prospect of him resuming his work with the UN courts system. Turkey blames Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, for orchestrating the failed putsch and has repeatedly asked Washington to extradite him. Gulen has denied the charges.