ECtHR: Man detained under terror suspicions had human rights violated by Turkish authorities
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that the pre-trial detention of a man suspected of belonging to a terrorist organisation in Turkey was a violation of his human rights under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Tekin Akgün was suspected of being involved with a terrorist organisation referred to by the Turkish authorities as “FETÖ/PDY” (“Gülenist Terrorist Organisation/Parallel State Structure”).
During the night of 15 to 16 of July 2016, a group of members of the Turkish armed forces attempted to carry out a military coup and it resulted in 251 people killed and 2,194 people injured. The national authorities blamed that network linked to Fetullah Gülen, a Turkish citizen living in Pennsylvania, USA, and considered to be the presumed leader of FETÖ/PDY.
On 20 July 2016, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency which lasted until 18 July 2018. During this time, the Turkish authorities investigated suspected members of FETÖ/PDY. On 17 October 2016 Mr Akgün, a former police officer, was questioned by the Istanbul public prosecutor on suspicion of being a member of the organisation.
Mr Akgün was found to have used a messaging app called ByLock that was known to be used by FETÖ/PDY. On those grounds, the public prosecutor referred the case to the 1st Magistrate Court and requested that Mr Akgün was detained while awaiting trial.
The 1st Magistrate Court dismissed an objection raised by Mr Akgün against his pre-trial detention on the grounds that there was a strong suspicion that he had committed the offences in question. Given the nature of the alleged offences and fear of further coup attempts, the court decided that detention was necessary.
Mr Akgün further appealed this decision with the Constitutional Court but to no avail. On 16 April 2018, he lodged an application to the ECtHR claiming that he had suffered a breach of his Article 5 right to liberty and security.
The court considered that the Turkish courts did not have enough information about the ByLock app to conclude that it was exclusively used by members of FETÖ/PDY and that the mere fact Mr Akgün was a user of the app was not enough to show reasonable suspicions for the alleged offences.
The ECtHR concluded that the Turkish government had been unable to show that they had sufficient evidence for the pre-trial detention at that time and as such the detention had been a violation of Mr Akgün’s right to liberty and freedom under Article 5 of ECHR.
Furthermore, the Turkish court’s failure to provide sufficient reasons was a breach under Article 5 (3) and there had also been a violation of Article 5 (4) of the Convention because the applicant nor his lawyer had sufficient knowledge of the evidence against him, which would have been of crucial importance for challenging the detention decision in the first place.
Turkey was ordered to pay Mr Akgün €12,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damages and €1,000 in respect of costs and expenses.