According to the BBC at least 2,745 judges have been dismissed in Turkey, following the recent failed coup d'état attempt.

Why? How were these judges involved in the coup attempt? And if they were involved, why were they not arrested?

Has the Turkish goverment explained the dismissals at all?

  • 1
    FYI, a recent article in the German FAZ discusses whether the coup might have been launched to prevent the imminent dismissal of judges (i.e. possible reversal of stated cause and effect).
    – Drux
    Jul 17, 2016 at 19:43
  • There might be many ulterior motives but it's in any case pretty common to dismiss civil serveants when there is some tangible reason to believe they have questionable loyality to the state (i.e. without any proof they did something that raises to the level of a criminal offense). I think you would be pretty hard pressed to find a coup attempt that's not followed by something like that (not necessarily on that scale, though) and there are other cases too (e.g. the ban of the KPD in West Germany).
    – Relaxed
    Jul 17, 2016 at 20:16
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    @Relaxed Wouldn't one expect in a democracy (with separation of powers, etc.) that judges enjoy special immunity over "normal" citizens and civil servants. Isn't this e.g. why FDR had to attempt packing the Supreme Court instead of firing (some of) its judges?
    – Drux
    Jul 17, 2016 at 20:49
  • There must be a significant difference in the definition of "judge" compared with the UK, for example. The total number of judges in England and Wales is only approximately 3500. That number does not include the lower-level "magistrates", of course. judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/…
    – alephzero
    Jul 17, 2016 at 21:21
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    @Drux Some would argue that Turkey isn't really a democracy. Compare The Economist's Democracy Index (2015); Turkey ranks #97 in that list, on par with Uganda and Thailand, listed as "Hybrid regime" which is the step in between "Flawed democracy" and "Authoritarian".
    – user
    Jul 18, 2016 at 11:43

2 Answers 2


From the sheer size of that list, it wasn't drawn up from scratch in response to the attempted coup but long before. It's impossible to say if all of them have ties to political opponents of Erdogan or if they were simply marked "uncertain loyalty", but it would be astonishing if all those judges were somehow involved in such a small, clumsy and uncoordinated coup attempt. Erdogan has been purging the army, police and judicial system of opponents for years, replacing them with loyal people, so this fits the pattern perfectly.

The most likely scenario is that Erdogan had those judges in his sights and simply seized the moment when he realized the failed coup gave him carte blanche to take out political opponents because protesting such actions carries a high risk of being associated with the failed coup for a at least a few days.

The second (unlikely) scenario is that Erdogan had this coup prepared by his agents in case he felt his support faltering. It would explain both why the coup was so inept and how the response was so targetted and far-reaching, but the risk of a link back to Erdogan being discovered is so serious that it would be hard to believe Erdogan was desperate or paranoid enough to take it. There is a question about that on this site as well.

  • 3
    The coup wasn't that clumsy. Apparently Ergodan managed to miss being arrested by a few minutes. Jul 18, 2016 at 6:15
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    @dan-klasson: If actual evidence of that surfaces, I'll change my mind, but for now we only have the word of Erdogan, for whom that makes a very good narrative. Fact remains that no vital government official was captured or seriously impeded in their movement. That says clumsy to me.
    – Cyrus
    Jul 18, 2016 at 7:03
  • I agree. Even if true it's still a bit clumsy to show up late. If they had managed to seize him though, maybe things would have turned out differently. Perhaps higher military leaders would have joined in. Jul 18, 2016 at 7:09
  • While you might be correct about the real reason, I believe the ostensible reason is that judges have been removed where Erdogan (or people who work for him of course) fear that they might make rulings to uphold the coup. I'm told (from TV news, I don't have a nice friendly reference) that this has been the pattern of previous Turkish military coups. Part of the process of a successful coup is getting court rulings that support you and condemn the deposed government. Jul 18, 2016 at 12:08

Turkey has seen a rapid political change in the last decade, it has transitioned from a system where secularism was constitutionally mandated in which the current government would not have been allowed to govern. The military used to have the right to intervene in the political system. In 1997, the military removed the Turkish government from power, but because this happened within the constitutional framework, it doesn't qualify as a coup.

Now, when a country moves away from such a system to a different system where the military no longer has this power, it takes time for all the people working in the relevant institutions to change their mindset. There will still be many old guard people in the military and the judiciary who have difficulties accepting the new system. In case of this coup, if it had been successful, the military would have had to rely heavily on the old guard judges to get their way.

Now a reform process was underway to deal with these and other issues, but Erdogan also tried to get his way by giving the justice minster more power, which was ruled to be unconstitutional. So, there was a power play going on between the judiciary and the government, and because you have this "old guard judiciary" issue mixed in there, the Erdogan government does not fully trust the judiciary. So, it's understandable that that after this coup attempt, Erdogan would immediately get rid of the judges and prosecutors who are seen to be on the wrong side, who given their record would likely not have obstructed the coup plotters had they been successful.

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