Turkey Referred to Security Council over Imprisoned International Judge

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (DW) — As a judge in The Hague Aydin Sefa Akay should have had diplomatic immunity, but he was arrested for having a messaging app on his phone. As he languishes in prison an appeal for a man jailed for 30 years is in limbo.

The United Nations referred Turkey to the Security Council on Monday, March 6, for its continued incarceration of an international judge who was arrested after last year’s failed coup.

In January the UN Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) gave Turkey a February 14 deadline to release Akay and halt legal proceedings against him because he had diplomatic immunity.

“The government of Turkey has failed to comply with its obligations,” the court ruled on Monday. “This matter shall be reported to the UN Security Council,” presiding judge Theodor Meron wrote in his ruling.

Akay was arrested in a post-coup crackdown along with more than 40,000 people — including teachers, public officials and journalists – who were arrested, dismissed or sacked .

At the time of his arrest he had been scheduled to hear an appeal in the case against Augustin Ngirabatware, a Rwandan politician who was sentenced in 2012 to 35 years in prison for genocide, whose lawyers claimed to have found exonerating evidence.

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“Because Turkey refuses to release Judge Akay, Dr. Ngirabatware’s case is at a standstill,” defense lawyer Peter Robinson wrote in his February motion. “He remains in prison for a crime he did not commit, waiting for a hearing he cannot have.”

MICT is the legal successor to the tribunals that tried crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars and the Rwandan genocide.

As a member of the Hague-based MICT Akay was granted diplomatic immunity. The court said it had been unable to reach Akay.

The Security Council could decide to pressure Turkey diplomatically or via sanctions or even force, though it very rarely acts in such cases.

Turkish media reported Akay was arrested for having a messaging application on his phone that was allegedly used by many of the plotters in the coup against Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan.

Critics accuse Erdogan of using the coup attempt as a pretext to purge political rivals and civil servants whose views he dislikes, a charge he denies.

Turkish and German ties have been sorely strained recently, even since before the failed coup, a situation most recently highlighted by the arrest of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel. The journalist for Die Welt is pending trial on charges of supporting a terrorist organization.

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