STATEMENT: TRIAL AGAINST 22 LAWYERS in TUKEY ISTANBUL 37th HIGH CRIMINAL COURT – FILE NO. 2018/84

OUR COLLEAGUES ARRESTED IN PRE-TRIAL DETENTION HAVE BEEN RELEASED BUT, A FEW HOURS LATER AND AFTER THE PROSECUTOR’S APPEAL, A NEW ARREST WARRANT HAS BEEN ISSUED BY THE SAME COURT FOR 15 OF THEM.

A mission of the AED – EDL, composed by Italian, Spanish, Catalonian, Dutch and French lawyers: Simonetta CRISCI, Gilberto PAGANI, Ezio MENZIONE, Raffaella MULTEDO, Rossella SANTO, Robert SABATA, Adrià FONT, Hanno BOS and Florian BORG have been observing the aforementioned trial against our colleagues, the lawyers Ahmet MANDACI, Aycan ÇİÇEK, Ayşegül ÇAĞATAY, Aytaç ÜNSAL, Barkın TİMTİK, Behiç AŞÇI, Didem BAYDAR ÜNSAL, Ebru TİMTİK, Engin GÖKOĞLU, Naciye DEMİR, Özgür YILMAZ, Süleyman GÖKTEN, Şükriye ERDEN, Yağmur EREREN EVİN, Yaprak TÜRKMEN, Zehra ÖZDEMİR, Ezgi ÇAKIR, Selçuk KOZAĞAÇLI (President of the ÇHD), Günay DAĞ and Oya ASLAN who are members of the Progressive Lawyers Association (Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği, ÇHD). The majority of them are simultaneously lawyers working for the People’s Law Office (Halkın Hukuk Bürosu, HHB).

Seventeen lawyers were under pre-trial detention until yesterday, when the Court decided to free them under several measures. Even though the decision was announced at the evening, they were physically released today (7.00 am, in the morning). Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Yaprak Türkmen were under incomunicado pre-trial detention. All of them faced very difficult situations in jail. During the hearing, they described in detail the physical attacks they faced during their pre-trial detention process. Among the lawyers who were detained Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Yaprak Türkmen were kept in the High Security Prison of İstanbul in Silivri and the remaining15 lawyers were sent to prisons in six different cities, outside the sphere of jurisdiction and far from their families, without any reason.

But after the Prosecutor’s objection, the same court issued a few hours later new arrest warrants against 15 of them.

Once again, the actions undertaken by Prosecutors and Courts against Lawyers are definitely jeopardizing the Rule of Law in Turkey. The Court released the lawyers on the account they were professionals exercising their profession and because the length of the Pre-trial detention had been denounced by a large number of Humans Rights organisations. Astonishingly, with the exact same arguments the Court has decided to issue new arrest warrants.

We express great concern about this decision, evidently taken under political pressure on the judiciary.

In his bill of indictment, the prosecutor accused Barkın TİMTİK and Özgür YILMAZ of “forming and directing an illegal organization” (they are facing 20 to 22.5 years of jail – in accordance with the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) 314/1, Law No.: 3737 5/1), and the other defendants were accused of “membership in an illegal organization” (with jail for 7.5 years to 20 years – in accordance with TCK 314/2, Law No.: 3713 5/1). The proof against them is slight.

It appears inacceptable that:

  • The prosecutor considers evidence against Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, the suspects accused of membership in a terror organization, a booklet, titled Unfinished Scenario of a Terror Organization – The Facts about Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça. The booklet was in fact published on the official website of the Ministry of Interior, on July 21, 2017.
  • For many defendants, accusations are not personalized, and consist of statistical information about the professional activities of the lawyers and their style of professional approach grounded on abstract accounts of witnesses, which are been turned into the subject of the accusation.
  • Proceedings, prepared with reference to social media accounts and printed publications are included in the formal accusation against the lawyers.
  • Statistical reports on the procedural acts of 16 lawyers, pertaining to their clients in custody or detained in prison was prepared and directed as accusation.
  • The bill of indictment contains information on press conferences, in which the lawyers participated and the court cases filed against them.

It is our consideration, that lawyers are here unfairly attacked for taking a stand in defence of Fundamental Rights and Liberties. We remind the Turkish authorities that the BASIC PRINCIPLES ON THE ROLE OF LAWYERS adopted by the 8th United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, which took place in Havana, Cuba from the 27th of August to the 7th September 1990, enshrine the necessary Guarantees for the correct functioning of this professional activity.

  1. Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics….

           18. Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.

The Turkish authorities have taken for granted that, as enshrined by the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (22nd of August 2016), associations of lawyers, together with non-governmental organizations, should build networks to act in coordination and solidarity to defend and protect lawyers from attacks. So professional associations of lawyers like ÇHD have a vital role to play in upholding professional standards and ethics, protecting their members from persecution and improper restrictions and infringements.

We urge the Turkish authorities to take account of these very serious concerns with the aim to avoid future human rights violations during the very difficult period Turkey is going through at the moment. Recently, the state of emergency was lifted, but that will not be enough to reverse this repressive trend on an upward trajectory. Systematic action is needed to restore respect for human rights, enable civil society to regain its momentum and ease the climate of suffocating fear that has swept the country.

Yet, despite the repression, lawyers demand justice and equality, at the risk of being unfairly punished for taking a stand, guided by their deep commitment to human rights, justice and freedom. Instead of punishing them, Turkey should be proud of these people who form a vibrant and brilliant human rights community.

As jurists we cannot accept this harassment of our colleagues and human rights defenders. Sadly, there is a long tradition of attacking the defence in Turkey. So, we make a call upon Turkish authorities to prevent the development of intimidation against lawyers and humans rights defenders.

Colmar, 15th September 2018,

AED (Avocats Européens Démocrates / European Democratic Lawyers)

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