A Turkish judge in Istanbul, who opposed the transfer of the murdered journalist, Jamal Khashoggi’s case to Saudi Arabia has been relocated, further signalling the government’s interference in the country’s judiciary.
In its summer decree, Turkiye’s Judges and Prosecutors Board recently announced the relocation of 5,426 judges to other judicial sites within the country. Amongst those relocations was the transfer of Chief Judge, Nimet Demir, from Istanbul’s 12th High Criminal Court to the southern city of Kahramanmaras.
The move comes after Demir opposed the transfer of the Khashoggi case to Saudi authorities two months ago, which was a decision taken by Ankara to repair ties with Riyadh after years of a political and diplomatic rift between the two. Until then, Turkiye had been a leading proponent for investigating and prosecuting the perpetrators of the assassination of Khashoggi, which took place in October 2018 at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.
Despite her vote against the case’s transfer in April, Demir was alone in the opposition and was outvoted by two other judges in court. It was after that stance that the Board decided to transfer her to the south of Turkiye, where junior judges usually work, leading her to believe it was a political decision.
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Speaking to the Turkish newspaper, Sozcu, on Monday, she said that “I didn’t ask for relocation nor I was informed before-hand that I was going to be placed somewhere else”.
Demir insisted that “I was trying to uphold democracy, human rights and freedoms. This is something that would cause special attention under autocratic systems. And I’m a victim.” Stressing that she will petition the Justice Ministry for her retirement, she stated her intention to no longer participate in Turkiye’s judicial system.
Demir’s relocation also comes as Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman – who is believed to have ordered Khashoggi’s assassination and sent his hit squad to carry it out – is today visiting Turkiye for the first time since the journalist’s murder.
Bin Salman’s visit and meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to deepen the improvement of ties between Ankara and Riyadh, and is predicted to result in a series of investment deals.