Turkey’s top judiciary body relocates judge who voted in favor of Osman Kavala's release

Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) on July 17 appointed Judge Sercan Karagöz from Istanbul to Ağrı province after he voted in favor of Osman Kavala's release during the Gezi Park trial.

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Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) on July 17 appointed Sercan Karagöz from Istanbul to Ağrı after he voted for the release of philanthropist businessman Osman Kavala and rights defender Yiğit Aksakoğlu while was serving as the presiding judge in the Gezi Park trial at Istanbul's 30th High Criminal Court.

Karagöz, who was removed from the Gezi Parkı trial panel after voting for the release of two during the trials, was first appointed as a member of the second panel at the same court, according to reporting of online news outlet T24.

Sources T24 pointed out that Karagöz may have requested to be transferred himself, and the HSK may have accepted this request and assigned him to Ağrı.

In April 2022, Istanbul's 30th High Criminal Court sentenced Mücella Yapıcı, Çiğdem Mater, Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi to 18 years in jail for aiding the alleged attempt to overthrow the government during the 2013 Gezi Protests. Human rights defender Kavala, on the other hand, was sentenced to life imprisonment as he faced the charge of “attempting to abolish the government.”

Defendants in the Gezi Parkı trial, drawing by Murat Başol.

Kavala was arrested in 2017 on charges that he helped to plan the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey. He was cleared of these charges in February 2020 but immediately arrested on charges that he orchestrated the July 2016 coup attempt, seen at the time as a way of getting around the ECHR's 2019 ruling that called for his immediate release.

In April 2022, an Istanbul court sentenced Kavala to aggravated life in prison without parole on charges of attempting to overthrow the government.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan previously said they will not respect ECHR’s decision, triggering proceedings which could result in Turkey's suspension from the Council of Europe, of which it is a founding member.

Turkish government has been instrumentalizing the top judicial body HSK as a carrot-and-stick mechanism against judges and prosecutors to keep them in line. For instance, the HSK on July 6 dismissed Judge Ahmet Çakmak after he objected to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s third-time candidacy in the 2023 Presidential Elections.