UN legal body orders Turkey to release judge

AP News
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Posted: Jan 31, 2017 9:11 AM

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A United Nations legal panel on Tuesday ordered Turkey to release a U.N. judge who is among thousands of people detained in the aftermath of last year's failed coup.

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) ordered Ankara to free Aydin Sefa Akay by Feb. 14 and halt legal proceedings against him, saying he is protected by diplomatic immunity.

In a statement, the MICT said that the order to release Akay is legally binding under a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring states to comply with the mechanism's orders.

Akay is a member of a panel of judges that is reviewing the case of a former Rwandan government minister who was convicted of involvement in his country's 1994 genocide.

The written order issued Tuesday said that replacing Judge Akay would have "a chilling effect on the administration of justice" by allowing "interference by a national authority in the conduct of a case and the exercise of judicial functions."

Akay was detained last year by Turkish authorities in the aftermath of the country's failed July 15 coup attempt. Ankara has launched a sweeping purge of perceived followers of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies the government's claim he masterminded the coup attempt.

Akay is one of the judges in the case of Augustin Ngirabatware, a former Rwandan minister of planning who was sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment by the U.N.'s Rwanda Tribunal for incitement to commit genocide and instigating and aiding and abetting genocide. Ngirabatware requested a review of his sentence last year based on new evidence he claims will exonerate him.

Tuesday's order rejected a request by Ngirabatware for temporary release while his case is on ice due to Akay's detention.