The European rights court rules Turkey's jailing of a UN judge after a coup attempt was unlawful

ISTANBUL (AP) — A United Nations judge was unlawfully jailed when he was arrested in Turkey in the wake of a 2016 coup attempt despite holding diplomatic immunity, the European Court of Human Rights said Tuesday.

The court ruled that Aydin Sefa Akay’s “arrest, pre-trial detention, search of his house and person had been unlawful.” It said his detention was extended despite letters from the U.N. stating his entitlement to diplomatic immunity and requests for his release and an end to the case against him.

The court added that Akay's right to liberty, security and respect for private life had been violated and ordered Turkey to pay him 28,100 euros ($29,955) in damages and costs.

But it rejected his call to be released as the findings only concerned his pre-trial detention, not his current imprisonment. Akay was convicted of terrorism in June 2017 and sentenced to seven years and six months in prison.

The conviction was upheld in February 2021, more than two years after his term as a U.N. judge had ended, and Akay, who is in his mid-70s, is now serving his sentence in Rize prison on the Black Sea coast. The European court said his current incarceration stemmed from the 2021 decision.

Akay, a former legal adviser at the Turkish Foreign Ministry and representative to the Council of Europe, was working as a judge for the U.N. Criminal Tribunals Mechanism when he was detained at his home in Istanbul. He was among thousands of Turks rounded up in a clampdown on the group that Ankara blamed for the failed military coup in July 2016,

He was indicted for membership in an armed terrorist organization, namely a group led by the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The Turkish authorities have designated the Gulen movement as a terror group which they label the Fethullahist Terror Organization.

Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, denies any involvement in the coup attempt, which saw more than 250 people killed as rogue troops stormed Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge and bombed targets in the capital in Ankara, including the parliament.

Turkey has three months to request the judgment be referred to a higher court chamber.

The European Court of Human Rights is based in Strasbourg, France, and oversees allegations of civil and political rights violations.