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Top court upholds prison sentence given to head of shut-down jurist association

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Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld a prison sentence of 10 years handed down by a lower court to Murat Arslan, president of the now-dissolved Judges and Prosecutors Association (YARSAV), the Kronos news website reported.

Arslan was sentenced to prison by the Ankara 25th High Criminal Court in 2019 on charges of membership in a “terrorist organization,” in reference to the faith-based Gülen movement.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Arslan was arrested in October 2016 as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement after being dismissed from his post at the Court of Accounts in July 2016.

He was awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2017 by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

YARSAV, which used to be a member of the European-based Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés (MEDEL), was among the thousands of institutions closed down by the government in the first state of emergency decree issued in the aftermath of the failed coup.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch

Following the failed coup, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

A total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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