On November 23, 2023, representatives of Lawyers for Lawyers observed the final hearing in the trial of lawyer Berrak Çağlar who was accused of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, following her expression of solidarity with her imprisoned colleagues, lawyers from Turkey—specifically, Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal—who were on a death fast in 2020.
Berrak Çağlar, a member of the ÇHD (Progressive Lawyers Association), faces accusations of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). The charges fall under Articles 53, 58 (9), 63 and 314 (2) of the Turkish Criminal Code and Article 5 (1) of Turkey’s Anti-Terrorism Law no. 3713. If found guilty, Berrak Çaglar could be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 7.5 to 15 years.
Lawyers for Lawyers and several other international organisations for the protection of lawyers’ rights have been monitoring the trial since its initiation on March 31, 2021. The initial hearing focused on evidence gathered during an investigation into Çağlar, including interviews and speeches conducted in solidarity with imprisoned Turkish lawyers and updates on the situation regarding lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal.
Subsequent hearings addressed various procedural issues and the availability and legality of the evidence presented by the prosecutor. In the previous hearing on September 27, the prosecutor asserted that there was sufficient evidence against Berrak Çağlar to support a conviction for being a member of a terrorist organization. Consequently, the prosecutor requested her imprisonment for a term ranging from 7.5 to 15 years.
The Hearing of November 23
During the hearing on November 23, Berrak Çağlar’s lawyers had the opportunity to bring forward their defenses and elaborate on points previously submitted in earlier hearings.
The key elements of the defense included:
- The allegations against Berrak Çağlar are all related to her role as a lawyer and were committed in her capacity of a lawyer. The acts in question are, therefore, legal activities performed during the execution of her legal practice and are not connected to terrorism or the support of terrorism;
- according to Turkish law, a lawyer can only be prosecuted if the Ministry of Justice has given explicit prior consent. In this case, such consent has not been granted, rendering the prosecution illegal;
- there are various technical and legal reasons why the proof against Berrak Çağlar is deemed invalid and illegal. Therefore, she cannot be convicted based on such evidence.
The Court’s Decision
After the defense lawyers presented their pleadings, the court suspended the hearing for a short break. Following this break, the court promptly issued its judgment, ruling that the acts forming the basis of the allegations against Berrak Çağlar were not validly proven. Therefore, the court fully acquitted her of all accusations. This decision concluded the proceedings at the first instance.
However, on the same day as the court’s decision, the prosecutor announced the intention to appeal this decision with the Sakarya Regional Court. The grounds for such an appeal are not yet known.
Lawyers for Lawyers will keep monitoring this case during the appeal.