Turkey snubs UN hearing on detained Rwanda genocide judge

Augustin Ngirabatware (R) during his first appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Oct. 2008

ANKARA - Turkey snubbed a hearing Tuesday at a UN court seeking to resolve a standoff over the post-coup detention of one of its judges which has paralysed an appeals case.
There were only empty chairs at the place set for Ankara at the UN's Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) which is pondering how to resolve the dilemma posed by the continued detention of Turkish judge Aydin Sefa Akay.
Akay, arrested last year in a crackdown after the attempted coup in Turkey, is part of a five-judge bench hearing the appeal of former Rwandan minister Augustin Ngirabatware, who was sentenced to three decades in jail for his role in the 1994 genocide in the African nation.
Akay was one of 41,000 people arrested in the aftermath of the failed July 15 coup attempt to unseat Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
His detention has now frozen Ngirabatware's case and in a rare moment in court Tuesday both the Rwandan's lawyer and prosecutors were in agreement.
"Today I ask you to take the first step and issue an order for the release of judge Akay without further delay," defence lawyer Peter Robinson told presiding judge Theodor Meron.
Robinson added the demand to free Akay should set a deadline of "48 hours."
"We can only concur with Mr Robinson and his request," said UN prosecutor Michelle Jarvis, stressing "a way forward must be found."
Earlier, the MICT heard notices were sent to Turkey's embassies in Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania -- where Ngirabatware is currently behind bars -- and in The Hague.
Neither attempt to deliver the MICT documentation was successful with the documents marked "Return to Sender", the court heard.
Ngirabatware was sentenced in 2012 to 35 years in jail for his role in the Rwandan genocide in which some 800,000 people were killed.
The term was cut to 30 years on appeal in 2014, but he is now appealing the two rulings.
Ngirabatware has asked judges to release him pending a resolution to Akay's absence, but both prosecutors and Tanzania are opposing the request.
In Turkey, Akay has denied any link to the organisation of Fetullah Gulen, the US-based preacher blamed by Ankara for the putsch attempt.
According to Turkey's state-run news agency Anadolu, prosecutors accuse Akay of being a key figure in a masonic lodge tied to Gulen.
Meron told lawyers he would issue his ruling "as soon as possible".