ECHR finds rights violation in case regarding Gülen network

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Turkey guilty in the case of teacher Yüksel Yalçınkaya who was convicted of “membership of the FETÖ armed terrorist organization” for allegedly using ByLock, an encrypted messaging application, and having an account in the Gülenist-run Bank Asya.

Duvar English

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Sept. 26 ruled that Turkish authorities had violated the rights of teacher Yüksel Yalçınkaya by sentencing him to prison for “membership of the FETÖ armed terrorist organization.”

In its ruling, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR said that Turkey violated the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 7 (no punishment without the law), Article 6, Clause 1 (right to a fair trial), and Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) in the case of Yalçınkaya who was convicted of over his alleged links to the movement of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. 

The Gülen network is referred to by the government as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) and is widely believed to have undertaken the failed coup attempt of July 2016.

The top European rights court ordered Turkey to pay 15,000 euros to Yalçınkaya as court expenses but rejected Yalçınkaya's request of compensation to be paid for “non-pecuniary damages,” DW Turkish reported

In 2017, a Kayseri court sentenced Yalçınkaya to six years and three months in prison on charges of “membership of the FETÖ armed terrorist organization” for using ByLock, an encrypted messaging app Ankara says was used by the Gülen network, for having an account in the Gülenist-run Bank Asya, for being a member of “FETÖ-affiliated” associations and unions, and with the testimony of a secret witness.

In its ruling, the ECHR reminded that there are approximately 8,500 cases “on the Court’s docket involving similar complaints,” and that this number could increase as Turkish authorities identified around 100,000 ByLock users.

In his application to the ECHR in 2020, Yalçınkaya argued “he was not given a fair trial by impartial and independent courts, he was accused on the basis of evidence illegally obtained by Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) without a court decision, the evidence was not shown to him, the courts made decisions only on the basis of the prosecutors' unilateral arguments, and he was prevented from communicating effectively with his lawyer.”

Turkish Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç criticized the ECHR's ruling and argued the court “exceeded its authority by examining evidence.”

In a statement, Tunç said “Although the ECHR has repeatedly stated in its jurisprudence that it does not have the authority to evaluate evidence, it has resorted to evaluating evidence when it comes to FETÖ trials. The ECHR... declared from the very beginning that it would not conduct an impartial trial and violated the law and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The Gülen movement were once close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), but their ties were strained in 2013 following a graft probe.

More than 150,000 government employees have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs since the failed coup in 2016, in what the AKP government says is an effort to cleanse the state apparatus of Gülenists, though among those purged have included high numbers of Kurds, leftists and union members.