Concerns over detention of lawyers, journalists, politicians, and artists in Turkey
It has been exactly one month since the Turkish police carried out raids across 21 provinces in the country, resulting in the detention of numerous lawyers, journalists, politicians, and artists. Lawyers for Lawyers continues to be concerned over this matter.
The operation, which took place in the morning of April 25, 2023, primarily targeted pro-Kurdish organizations, including the Mezopotamya Agency (MA), the Yeni Yaşam Newspaper, the Lawyers for Freedom Association (ÖHD), and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). It has come to our information that the Association of Lawyers for Freedom headquarter was also searched. The operation is allegedly linked to the anti-terrorism investigation that is being overseen by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The ÖHD reported that 25 of their members, branch and headquarters’ executives, and human rights advocates were detained during the raids. The Diyarbakır police officers conducted illegal home searches without a representative of the bar association present, violating both the law and human rights. The investigation file was put under a confidentiality order, leaving the charges against them unclear. Furthermore, the organization reported that the lawyers’ case files were illegally confiscated and there was a 24-hour restriction on lawyer visits. Almost 200 members of the Human Rights Association, Kurdish press workers, politicians and artists have also been detained.
The charges against the 25 lawyers under custody remain unclear. However, it was reported that media outlets closely associated with the government have claimed that all 25 of them were detained based on a single witness statement. This raises concerns that the professional practices of the ÖHD members have been unfairly weaponized against them. Moreover, the statement on the Twitter account of the Turkish Interior Minister addressing this operation, “Those who work as lawyers on behalf of the terrorist organization are in custody”, indicates that Kurdish lawyers are facing criminalization, unjust allegations of crimes and undue judicial pressure related to their professional activities.
This crackdown on politicians, lawyers, journalists and artists comes ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections that took place on May 14. The operation is seen as an attempt to undermine the upcoming election process through the judiciary and to target an election process that is not fair and independent. This crackdown has undermined personal freedoms and rights, and has resulted in the criminalization of rights advocacy.
The Diyarbakır Bar Association and the Association of Lawyers for Freedom released a comprehensive report shedding light on the rights violations observed throughout the investigation. This report concluded that the targeting of defense lawyers, coupled with baseless and intimidating investigations and prosecutions, poses a significant threat to a fundamental pillar of justice in Turkey—the right to a fair trial. Read the full report here.
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