A top United Nations court has expressed deep concern about an imprisonment sentence handed down to one of its judges in Turkey, saying Ankara has clearly trampled on the judge’s diplomatic immunity.
In a statement on Thursday, the UN’s Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) condemned Turkey for sentencing Aydin Sefa Akay, a retired ambassador and a top judge at the MICT, to seven years in jail on charges of links to a movement led by an opposition cleric, whom Ankara blames for last year’s failed coup.
The president of the Hague-based tribunal, Theodor Meron, said that he remained “gravely concerned” about the verdict given to Akay.
The statement said actions by the Turkish authorities since the arrest of Akay in September, including his detention and the legal case against him, were “inconsistent with the assertion of his diplomatic immunity by the United Nations.”
Meron said the court decision on Wednesday, to jail Akay for seven years and six months, was “deeply regrettable.”
Although Meron welcomed “as a humanitarian matter” that Akay was provisionally released pending confirmation of his verdict by Turkey’s top appeals court, 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’s charges, which he vehemently denies, include “membership in an armed terror group,” reference Turkish authorities often use to designate the movement of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric who is blamed for the abortive coup of July 15, 2016.
More than 40,000 people have been arrested and over 100,000 discharged from their jobs on charges of having links to Gulen.
Reports said Akay has also been convicted of using a communications service known as Bylock, which Ankara says was especially created for Gulen’s supporters.
Turkey has yet to determine a date for deciding on Akay’s verdict in the supreme appeals court.