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Turkey must release jailed Rwanda case judge, UN court orders

A United Nations court has called on Ankara to release Aydin Sefa Akay, a UN judge arrested by Turkey following last year's failed military coup. The UN legal panel said Akay's detention violates his diplomatic immunity.

The UN's Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) ordered the Turkish government Tuesday to free Akay by February 14 and halt all legal proceedings against him, insisting the UN judge enjoys diplomatic immunity.

Akay, both a judge and a diplomat, is one of about 40,000 Turkish officials who were taken into custody by the authorities in the wake ofa botched coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July last year. The government blamed the failed putsch on the followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in the US.

"Diplomatic immunity is a cornerstone of an independent judiciary," said Theodor Meron, president of the MICT.

Augustin Ngirabatware Archiv (E.Ruguririza/AFP/GettyImages)

Augustin Ngirabatware

Akay is a member of the panel of judges that is reviewing the case of a former Rwandan minister convicted of involvement in the country's 1994 genocide. Augustin Ngirabatware, who was given 30 years in prison by the UN's Rwanda Tribunal, requested a review of his sentence last year.

The MICT order said that replacing Akay on the panel would have "a chilling effect on the administration of justice" by allowing "interference by a national authority in the conduct of a case and the exercise of judicial functions."

The MICT order also rejected Ngirabatware's appeal for temporary release while his case is on ice due to Akay's detention.

According to Turkish media, Akay was arrested last year for having a mobile messaging application that was allegedly used by the coup plotters.

Watch video 05:55

Turbulent times in Turkey

shs/jr (Reuters, AP)

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