Turkey's judicial board promotes judge who failed to implement Constitutional Court ruling

Turkey's top judicial body HSK has promoted a judge who failed to implement the Constitutional Court ruling that main opposition CHP MP Enis Berberoğlu's rights were violated when he was imprisoned. According to the HSK's own charter, judges who defy Constitutional Court orders are not allowed to be promoted.

This collage photo shows Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan and the promoted judge Akın Gürlek (inset).

Duvar English 

Turkey's Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) has appointed Akın Gürlek, former head of the 14th Istanbul Heavy Penal Court and the judge who presided over high-profile political cases as those of Selahattin Demirtaş and Canan Kaftancıoğlu, a “first class judge,” Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish reported on Sept. 27. 

Last year, Gürlek failed to implement a Turkish Constitutional Court decision that said the rights of main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) MP Enis Berberoğlu had been violated when he was stripped of his parliamentary rights and arrested. According to the HSK’s own charter, someone who ignores a Constitutional Court decision should not be promoted.

Gürlek's failed to lift charges levied against Berberoğlu when the Turkish Constitutional Court declared legal processes against him unlawful.

Berberoğlu was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2017 for sharing photos on social media that allegedly showed the Turkish secret service delivering weapons to Syrian rebels. At that time, Turkey publicly denied being involved in the Syrian conflict.

Berberoğlu was released from prison in 2018 and returned to parliament, but was stripped of his parliamentary position in June 2020. In September 2020, the Constitutional Court deemed that Berberoğlu’s rights had been violated and that the penal court should stop proceedings against him.

Regardless of this decision, the 14th High Criminal Court appealed and continued to prosecute Berberoğlu. In February 2021, the Constitutional Court released another decision stating that legal proceedings against the politician must halt. Judge Gürlek still failed to implement this decision, in defiance of both the HSK’s own rules and Turkish law.

Berberoğlu and his lawyers filed a formal complaint against Gürlek for not implementing the Constitutional Court’s decision in 2020. HSK has yet to open an investigation into Gürlek.

Gürlek also oversaw several politically motivated cases, including the conviction of daily Sözcü journalists. He also sentenced former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş to four years and eight months in prison on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, and sentenced CHP Istanbul chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu to nine years and eight months in prison for her social media posts.

Gürlek declared journalist Can Dündar a fugitive after he fled to Germany, and ruled that the state could confiscate his property. He also sentenced the head of Turkish Medical Association Şebnem Korur Fincancı to two and a half years in prison on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda.

The promotion of Gürlek not only goes against HSK policy, but also against the Human Rights action plan announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in March 2021. The action plan said that "judicial authorities' decision-making in line with the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court and the ECtHR is a criterion in the promotion and appointment processes.”

Gürlek’s appointment to a “first class” judgeship paves the way for a place on Turkey’s highest courts - the Court of Cassation and the Constitutional Court. He will also receive a larger salary. When DW Turkish reached out to the HSK for comment, they declined to comment. They then removed the appointment announcement from the HSK website.