In Turkey, where the independence of the judiciary’s completely disappeared in the past two years, almost 4500 judges and prosecutors were dismissed from the post of judge, thousands were arrested and some were exiled.
The detained judges and prosecutors’ve been subjected to ill treatment and torture both under pre-trial detention period and prisons like rear-hundcuffing, insulting, threat, holding in solitary confinement, confiscation of their assets, not granting right to have a legal advice and also right of a health and family visitation etc.
Some of the judges and prosecutors who were declared as “terrorists” unduly in only one night while exercising judicial task reputably passed away in a way of not being able to stand for the real and moral coercion they were exposed to.
In this period, first death news came through from the province of Bursa on September 16, 2016. According to the official announcement, arrested prosecutor Seyfettin Yiğit committed suicide hanging himself in a prison toilet. His family, on the other hand, claimed he had not committed suicide but killed due to the investigations he carried out in the past so that he was kept silenced (1).
The death of judge Mehmet Tosun was another heartbreaking incidence which was announced by former CHP Tunceli deputy Hüseyin Aygün in his twitter account. Tosun, rapporteur judge in Council of Satate, was only one-month married when he was detained and had a health problem with his immune system. It was reported that he’d had a medical care for two years and his disease worsened after he was dismissed. Some time after he was released on probation, judge Tosun passed away in hospital (2).
Mustafa Erdoğan, senior judge and former member of Court of Cassation, was taken to hospital on December, 2016 in his home town Antalya with a diagnosis of brain tumour. Having a brain surgery here, Erdoğan received medical treatment escorted by police officers due to a detention warrant issued about him. His assets, salary and bank accounts were taken with a cautionary judgement. After the brain surgery, Erdoğan was arrested by the decision of Antalya 3rd Penal Court of Peace with no grounds and held in the arrestee ward of the hospital for 6 months under paraplegia. Dating from his arrest, both his release requests and applications for family visits were rejected. The lawyer of Erdoğan lodged an application with the Constitutional Court for his release on the grounds of his health problems. However, the Supreme Court dismissed the application on the grounds that “he was not hanged by any thread”. Erdoğan was taken into intensive care on August 2017 upon progression of his disease. Judge Erdoğan, not allowed to have a family visit even in intensive care unit, was released after he had lost his conscious. Being unconsciously fighting for his life in intensive care unit, judge Erdogan passed away at the end of fourth day of his release (3).
Teoman Gökçe, former member of first department of HSK, was one of the judges arrested following July 15 coup attempt under terrorism pretext. He was known with his opponent stance against removal of the prosecutors from 17/25 December corruption investigations in which Erdogan and his cabinet members’ names were also involved. Being allegedly subjected to insulting and psychological torture continually in Sincan Prison, judge Gökçe lost his parents at six months intervals. Upon it was realized that Gökçe, who was held under arrest in solitary confinement for nearly 2 yeras, had a heart attack in prison cell, it was alleged that other prisoners staying in prison cells next to that of Gökce called the prison wardens immediately, however, the calls were not responded in time, on the contrary, too late. It was announced by Sincan Prison administrative that Teoman Gökce had lost his life due to a heart attack (4).
Judge Alparslan Güngör, who was dismissed and kept in prison for 3 years, passed away of lung cancer on 16th April 2021.
Judge Güngör was dismissed on political charges on the pretext of the July 15 coup attempt and deprived of his freedom for 3 years.
When he was examined upon his illness after his release, he learned that he had stage 4 lung cancer.
His wife, who was a judge like him, was also dismissed and sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison. This case is still on appeal.
Güngör, he was the father of 2 children, aged 1 and 5.
Judge Mehmet Dölen, who was dismissed and kept in prison for 26 months, passed away of covid-19 on 1st June 2021.
Judge Dölen was dismissed on terrorism charges over the pretext of the July 15 coup attempt and deprived of his freedom for 26 months. He was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison and released until the end of appeal process.
After his release, he learned that he had covid-19.
He died of covid-19 on 1st June 2021.
Abuzer Kara, exiled to the province of Ordu on October 11, 2017 without his demand and against the settled practices while he was a judge of Istanbul Penal Court of First Instance, passed away due to a heart attack. A tape record regarding judge Abuzer Kara fell into press allegedly passing between the justice minister of that time and prime minister Erdoğan. Former head of Istanbul Bar and lawyer Turgut Kazan said in a statement he made after the death of judge Kara “the news reflected to press was not forgotten. In that news, Erdogan asked how a case presenting importance for him concluded with an acquittal. In response, the justice minister told that the judge of the court was Alevi. That aforementioned judge was Abuzer Kara. Accordingly, the well-known penalizing method became inevitable for him which was that he was exiled to Ordu. A life full of stress, stemming from the separation because he was in Ordu and his family was in İstanbul, was expectedly resulted in death” (5).
Purge victim female judge Lale Yıldız died from a heart attack after reinstated. She was firstly dismissed over ByLock usage and reinstated after it was understood that she was not user of it.
“judge Lale Yildiz of Bakırköy District, you all know her, who was dismissed due to ‘FETÖ’ charges and reinstated after having understood that she was one of the victims of “Purple Brain”, is no longer with us. Her heart could just make it till here. Rest in peace my dear sister” judge Nuh Hüseyin Köse tweeted on 22 May 2019.
Adalet Betül Çağdır
Adalet Betül Çağdır, an English teacher, was wife of a dismissed judge about whom a detention warrant was issued after coup attempt. Their all assets were seized and bank accounts were blocked just like other dismissed judges. Çağdır, a mother of two, fell into depression in this period and she committed suicide one and a half year after the coup attempt jumping out of the window of her apartment on the 9th floor (6).
Turkey’s leading human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu shared a tweet on 19 December 2018 that the release motions of Ibrahim Tufan Ataman a member of the Court of Cassation under arrest were declined throughout the 2.5 years. Mr. Ataman requested release from jail citing that his wife who was cancer was under severe disease and on the verge of death.
His request was accepted after his wife lost her consciousness. Mr. Ataman was released on December 13, 2018, and his beloved wife Ilhan Ataman passed away on December 19, 2018.
Gergerlioglu shared the drama on his social media account, as follows:
“Not convinced, release on the deathbed… İlhan ATAMAN, the wife of İbrahim Tufan ATAMAN a member of the Court of Cassation (Yargıtay) under arrest, passed away yesterday. Although his wife was seriously ill, he had not been released for months. He was released after she lost her consciousness and was taken into intensive care, but it was too late.” (7)
Former Prosecutor Mehmet Ali Pekgüzel’s wife Firdevs Pekgüzel died in a traffic accident in Ankara on her way to visit her husband in prison, HDP lawmaker and human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu tweeted on 6 May 2019. (8)
Erdal Tercan, expelled Constitutional Court member, was arrested in July 2016. He has been in prison so far. He is infected with Covid-19 in prison and virus spreads into his lung. Although he is seriously ill and has been at hospital he is not released, his defense lawyer Oktay Erdoğan shared:
Mr. Tercan was sentenced to 10 years and 7 months in prison on 4 April 2019 over the pretext of terrorism charges.
His wife, lawyer Süheyla Tercan died on 10 March 2020 and Criminal Chamber of Court of Appeal has not even allowed him to attend his wife’s funeral.
Sons of Işık Family
A judge couple fleeing Turkey through Aegen Sea lost their two children in a boat accident on the coast of Chios Island on 27 September 2019.
The boat which was carrying 19 asylum seekers, including judges, academics, teachers and their families, who were trying to escape from unlawful persecution, sank into the waters of the Aegean in the early morning of September 27th, 2019.
While twelve of them were rescued by the Greek Coast Guard, five children and two women died. The victims of the accident were buried in the Chios Island.
The Greek media released the tragic incident and experessed that the survivers were well-educated persons with a good level of French and English and they were seeking political asylum.
According to the sources, Fatma Işık and Nasır Işık, who were on the boat, are bothTurkish judges, who were expelled and tried for the terror charges. Woman judge Fatma Isik was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison and she was held under detention during her pregnancy. The survivor couple however lost their two children, 4-year-old Mahir and 3-year-old Ibrahim.
The Platform of SoE Decree Victims of Istanbul (Istanbul KHK’lilar Platformu in Turkish) shared that Judge Fatma Isik was a brilliant student through his life and she had held the 600th place among more than one million students at the nationwide university entrance exam.
Dismissed woman judge Sevda Guven and her husband, dismissed police chief Zeki Guven were rounded up by the police on 22 May 2018. They were arrested over the pretext of terrorism charges on 28 May 2018.
It is reported that, Zeki Güven died because of a heart attack today; however, because of lack of effective investigation about post coup deaths in custodies, his death remains suspicious.
Son of Fatih Canik
Judge Fatih Canik is held in custody in the Kahramanmaras Prison, but his family lives in Afyon. The Canik family, who has to travel a distance of 1500 km (750 km one way) for each visit, once more set-off from Afyon toward Kahramanmaras to attend an open visit. Unfortunately, they had an accident between Goksun and Kahramanmaraş city centre and Judge Canik’s five year old son died. (9)
Mother of Davut Atak
Family of Judge Davut Atak was on road to visit him as he was detained in Sivas Prison. Near Yavu village of Yıldızeli District situated on Sivas-Ankara road, the driver lost the steering control and the vehicle hurtled into the ditch by the road. At the accident, Fadime Atak, mother of Judge Davut Atak, died, and his father was taken into intensive care. Aslı Oktar, Ahmet Ergül, Ahsen Gül, Sevde Gül Atak and the driver were injured. (9)
Brother of Ahmet Demiryurek
Brother of the detained Istanbul Prosecutor Ahmet Demiryurek died at the traffic accident on his way to Silivri Prison where he was going to visit Prosecutor Demiryürek. (9)
Son of Hakan Oruç
The former Ankara Judge Hakan Oruc accepted the objection filed by some police officers who were under arrest for claims of wiretapping the phone line of the then PM Erdogan while he was serving as a member of the 13thAnkara Criminal Court. Soon after his decision, the HSYK, the now government-dependent Council of Judges and Prosecutors also added the name of Judge Oruç onto the list of those to be displaced. An investigation was initiated against him by the HSYK because he had accepted the Turkish Army’s judicial requests about the trucks found in Adana loaded with weapons. Judge Oruc lost his son during these difficult days when his place of duty was changed and sent away from Ankara. His son, Ilhan Oruc, was getting prepared for the national university entry exam. Having to leave his school and disrupting his preparation for the exam due to the relocation of his father only days before the exam date, caused him deep stress. On 11 March 2016, he had a cardiac arrest and unfortunately passed away. On the morning of 16 July, Hakan Oruc was shown among the jurists detained. His wife was dismissed from her job. He himself was arrested that day and has been in detention since then. The problems of the couple who had lost their 18-year-old son a few months before Judge Oruc was put into custody also continued after the detention. Having suffered a grievous year, the Oruc family is now waiting for the day that Judge Oruc will be released. (9)