GENEVA - A UN court condemned Turkey on Thursday for sentencing a top judge to seven years in jail on charges of links to a group blamed for last year's attempted coup.
Retired ambassador Aydin Sefa Akay, a top judge attached to the UN's Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, was sentenced in Ankara on Wednesday to seven years and six months, the MICT said in a statement.
MICT president Judge Theodor Meron "deeply regrets this action of the Turkish authorities, in further breach of Judge Akay's protected status under the international legal framework," the Hague-based tribunal said in a statement.
Akay was charged with "membership in an armed terror group" over alleged links to the organisation of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher blamed by Ankara for the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last July. Gulen denies any involvement in the botched coup.
Akay has vehemently denied the charges against him, which caused an uproar in the international legal community.
His arrest in September last year, his detention and a legal case against him "are inconsistent with the assertion of his diplomatic immunity by the United Nations," the MICT said.
He has been released under judicial supervision pending confirmation of the verdict by Turkey's top appeals court, and the MICT stressed "the verdict has yet to acquire legal finality".
Meron said he remained "gravely concerned", although he welcomed "as a humanitarian matter that Judge Akay has been provisionally released".
He called on Ankara to "take urgent steps to respect the protected status of Judge Akay and to resolve the situation consistent with international law."
The UN court ordered in late January that Akay should be released by at least mid-February so he can return to his work in The Hague, where the appeals case of a former Rwandan minister has been paralysed by the judge's absence.
Augustin Ngirabatware is calling for a 30-year jail term imposed for his role in his country's 1994 genocide to be overturned.
The MICT said in March it would report the matter to the UN Security Council as the case against Ngirabatware languished, with the Rwandan's lawyers saying their client "remains in prison for a crime he did not commit, waiting for a hearing he cannot have".
In Turkey, Akay was found guilty of using Bylock, a communications service which Ankara claims was especially created for Gulen supporters, the Dogan news agency reported.
He was released pending the ruling from the supreme appeals court, a date for which has not been set. If the verdict is confirmed by the higher court, he will go back to jail.
The court also placed an overseas travel ban on Akay, Dogan reported, meaning there is no prospect of him resuming his work with the UN courts system.