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Opposition leader Davutoğlu breaks silence on landmark ECtHR ruling, refrains from urging compliance

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Ahmet Davutoğlu, the leader of Turkey’s opposition Gelecek Partisi (Future Party), broke his silence on Wednesday on a recent European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) decision concerning a teacher while stopping short of calling on the government to implement the court’s decision, marking the first public statement from an opposition party leader on the landmark ruling, the Kronos news website reported.

The ECtHR last week delivered its ruling on Yüksel Yalçınkaya, a former teacher convicted of Gülen links due to his alleged use of a mobile application, his bank account and labor union membership. The court concluded that Yalçınkaya’s conviction violated several legal principles enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to a fair trial, the principle of no crime without law and the right to association.

The Strasbourg court also criticized Turkey’s widespread use as evidence of the mobile messaging app ByLock as broad and arbitrary, lacking necessary safeguards for a fair trial. Additionally, the court pointed out significant procedural deficiencies in Yalçınkaya’s trial, including not granting him access to evidence or allowing the independent examination of data.

The ruling is expected by legal experts and human rights defenders to have an impact on the conviction or trial of thousands of people who face terrorism charges due to their affiliation with the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in 2016 and labeled as a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Davutoğlu criticized the Turkish government for arresting thousands of people along with their relatives and enriching government supporters through a scheme known as the “FETÖ market,” which involves targeting businesspeople with supposed ties to the Gülen movement and extorting assets from them in exchange for dropping charges.

While Davutoğlu criticized the Turkish government for its actions after the coup, he did not elaborate on the content of the landmark ECtHR ruling. In particular, Davutoğlu did not call on the Turkish government to implement the court’s decision.

He also revealed that he had submitted a written text to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan advising that all unjust gains acquired from Gülen member businesspeople should be transferred to the treasury.

The opposition leader’s comments come amid a wave of criticism and defiance from Turkish officials, including Erdoğan and Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç, who have accused the ECtHR of exceeding its authority. Chief Justice Zühtü Arslan also expressed disagreement with the ECtHR’s ruling, stating that the Constitutional Court would revisit Yalçınkaya’s case during his retrial.

The ECtHR’s decision is seen as a landmark ruling that could affect thousands of similar cases in Turkey. It found Turkey in violation of three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights and ordered the country to pay Yalçınkaya 15,000 euros for costs and expenses.

While the ruling has garnered international attention, including a call from the German Bar Association for Turkey’s Constitutional Court to consider the ECtHR’s decision, the silence from Turkey’s own legal community and opposition parties has been noteworthy.

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