Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan lashed out on Sunday at a court decision acquitting a former top general over coup charges, which was nullified by another court on January 16, two days after his release.
“How can a court follow the way of getting a person sentenced to life imprisonment to get acquitted or release him immediately? This is not understandable,” Erdogan said, following by another court ruling that arrested Metin Iyidil on January 17.
The former three-star general and the commander of the Land Forces Training and Doctrine Command (EDOK) was sentenced in 2018 to life imprisonment over his alleged links to the Gulen Movement, a group the Turkish government accuses of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt.
While the movement led by the U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen denies any involvement, Erdogan’s government designated it as a terrorist organization, labeling it with the derogatory acronym FETO.
Metin Iyidil, who denied accusations of helping the coup plotters on the night of July 15, spent more than three years in prison.
It was until an Ankara court reversed the earlier verdict upon the request of appeal, ruling that there was no evidence proving his involvement in the coup attempt.
Ankara’s chief public prosecutor, however, filed a complaint about the decision, which led to his re-detention within a few days. The prosecutor blames the general for “attempting to remove the constitutional order.”
Soon after, the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) launched a probe into the incident removing all three judges who acquitted Iyidil from their posts.
Erdogan accused them of being a FETO member during a press conference before his departure to Berlin for a summit on Libya.
“The interesting thing is that the person or people who made this decision are also FETO players,” he argued and added:
“Thank God, our Justice Minister and prosecutors involved. They caught him as soon as possible […]. It has been a cheerless step for our legal community. We gave all the necessary instructions on it. […] He is now inside [in prison].”
Some social media users criticized Erdogan over his statements for interfering with judicial decisions.
In a clear disregard for human rights and law, #Erdogan admits he gave orders for the re-imprisonment of falsely convicted Gen. Metin Iyidil whose case was overturned on appeal & acquitted.pic.twitter.com/slutffgm8O
— Middle Eclipse (@Middleclipse) January 19, 2020
Ankara keeps on cracking down on tens of thousands in the country after the 2016 coup attempt, as part of its war against “the terrorist organization.”
International and national human rights groups, on the other hand, harshly criticize Erdogan’s government for controlling the judiciary in its interest and bypassing the rule of law.