Top court verdict in favor of FETÖ suspects sparks debate


A ruling on Thursday from the Constitutional Court that ordered the release of two suspects charged with links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) has triggered a debate on the fight against the group blamed for the 2016 coup attempt.

The court cited rights violations in its decision to release Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan, two suspects who were charged with writing and speaking in favor of FETÖ in speeches and articles for Gülenist mouthpieces. The top court reasoned that a lower court trying the suspects had failed to bring in concrete evidence against the suspects who were arrested after the deadly coup attempt.

The government was apparently irked by the verdict, although Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said that the court decision should be respected and the legal process is still ongoing.

Shortly after the Constitutional Court made the verdict public, a lower Istanbul court ruled to continue detention of Alpay and Altan, claiming that the higher court did not clarify reasons justifying their release yet. Lower court judges said the verdict for continued detention might be revised once a detailed ruling is issued.

Yıldırım said it is the lower court that would have the final say on the matter, noting that it was the night court that ordered continued detention of the defendants. "Eventually, the court will make a ruling in line with laws after reviewing the content of the case. The government expects the courts to issue rulings that do not weaken our struggle against FETÖ," Yıldırım said. The prime minister said it was against the principles of a state of law to argue the verdicts of courts. "Some will be happy and others will be disappointed with verdicts. It is wrong to hurt the image of courts. This is not a concluded case, and a rushed judgment of court's verdicts will overshadow it," he stated.

Other officials from the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party were more critical of the decision. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ asserted the Constitutional Court overstepped its powers with the verdict, saying that it should not act as "an appeals court." "The Constitutional Court saw itself as a lower court and reviewed evidence.

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