Top UN judge urges Turkey to free justice arrested after coup attempt

Top UN judge urges Turkey to free justice arrested after coup attempt

THE HAGUE - Agence France-Presse
Top UN judge urges Turkey to free justice arrested after coup attempt

(R) Judge Aydın Sefa Akay

A leading U.N. war crimes judge on Nov. 9 called on Turkey to free one of its justices who was arrested in September as part of an investigation into the July 15 failed coup attempt.
The detention of Aydın Sefa Akay, 66, has paralyzed an appeals hearing in Rwanda, judge Theodor Meron, the president of the United Nations’ Mechanism for International Tribunals, told the United Nations.

Due to Akay’s detention “the proceedings to which he has been assigned have necessarily come to a standstill,” Meron said in a speech in New York.

Akay is part of a five-judge bench appointed in July by Meron to hear an appeal brought by Augustin Ngirabatware. The former Rwandan minister was convicted in 2012 for his role in the 1994 genocide, but his original 35-year jail term was reduced on appeal in 2014 to 30 years. He is now appealing the two rulings.

Meron, who is the president of the U.N. body set up in The Hague and Arusha to oversee any residual hearings by the Rwanda court as well as the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said Akay had had diplomatic immunity when he was arrested on Sept. 21.

Meron said he had asked Ankara to be allowed to visit the judge and has also asked what conditions he was being held under.

“I deeply regret that the government of Turkey has thus far provided no formal communication” with the United Nations or the tribunal “in breach” of Ankara’s obligations.

Meron renewed his appeal to Turkey “to immediately release judge Akay from detention and enable him to resume his lawfully assigned judicial functions,” saying it was “critically important” that U.N. institutions be able to carry out their jobs.

Turkey had put forward Akay to be appointed as a judge with the tribunal. He is also a former ambassador for Turkey.

Since the failed coup attempt on July 15, tens of thousands suspects within the military, education sector, judiciary and media have been arrested, detained or sacked over suspected links with the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of ordering the attempted takeover.

The detentions also triggered concern among Turkey’s Western allies, including the European Union.