Turkey violated right to a fair trial in anti-terror case, says ECHR
STRASBOURGThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled Turkey violated the right to legal assistance and the right to examine witnesses in a 2003 court ruling which sentenced an alleged member of a terror organization to 18 years and nine months of imprisonment.
The applicant, Hasan Basri Gökbulut, was deported to Turkey from Iran on May 2002 and subsequently interrogated by the police, where he admitted being one of the main leaders of the outlawed Federative Islamic State of Anatolia (AFİD).
Following his questioning, Gökbulut was charged with membership of an illegal armed organization and faced trial in August 2002.
During the trial, the public prosecutor made use of the testimonies of four other suspects taken during criminal proceedings in 1998, identifying Gökbulut as one of the leaders of the organization.
Meanwhile, the defendant retracted his confessions, claiming to have been tortured by the police during his interrogation and demanded to examine the witnesses against him. The court, however, refused his demand and sentenced Gökbulut to 18 years and nine months of imprisonment.
In his 2003 application to the ECHR, Gökbulut explained he was not able to consult a lawyer while he was held in police custody. He also complained he was denied the right to examine any of the witnesses whose testimony the court relied upon for his conviction.
The ECHR’s judgment found Turkey guilty of violating Gökbulut’s rights to legal assistance and to examine witnesses and concluded that the national court did not provide “any serious reason” to deny Gökbulut the right to examine the witnesses whose statements were admitted as evidence.
“The testimony in question had played a decisive role, since no other evidence in the case file had directly proved that Mr. Gökbulut had committed the offence with which he was charged,” the court said.
The ECHR also underlined that the security court did not respond to Gökbulut’s allegations that his initial testimony was taken under duress, concluding that Turkey’s courts “failed to verify the procedural safeguards and the way in which the statements had been obtained.”