L4L and FTW monitor hearings in two trials
On Tuesday 22 November 2016, the criminal trial of 12 lawyers, almost all of whom are members of the OHD, the Association of Lawyers for Liberty, continued. All these lawyers are accused of involvement in terrorist activities. Lawyers from Lawyers for Lawyers (L4L) and Fair Trial Watch attended the trial in Istanbul. The President of the Amsterdam Bar Association, Pieter van Altena Regteren, attended the trial on behalf of 11 regional Dutch Bar associations. Furthermore there were international monitors from France and Italy present.
Two of the lawyers on trial are Ayşe Acinikli and Ramazan Demir. Ramazan Demir previously defended both journalists and lawyers who are being prosecuted by the Turkish government in mass terrorism trials. He also represented the Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink. Ramazan Demir and Ayşe Acinikli were held in pre-trial detention from 6 April until 7 September 2016.
During their interrogation, the lawyers were questioned about their previous activities, such as the complaints they had filed with the European Court of Human Rights about violations of human rights by the Turkish army during the siege of towns in Eastern Turkey. These towns were predominantly inhabited by Kurds. They also had to answer questions about visits they had made to clients held in detention and interviews they had given to (Western) media.
The accused lawyers and their defense emphasized that the position of lawyers in Turkey is more difficult than ever. Last week, three organizations representing lawyers, the OHD, CHD and MHD (together with hundreds of other civilian organizations) were temporarily banned. On 22 November, the ban was made permanent. The accused lawyers and their defense are unable to conduct a proper defense in this atmosphere of repression.
One of the defense lawyers said: “We are in one of the darkest periods of repression: the banning of organizations, the arrests of lawyers, the silencing of the media.”
The case has been postponed until April 20, 2017.
The KCK-case against 46 lawyers
On 14 November 2016, monitors from L4L, Fair Trial Watch and the Dutch Bar Association again attended a hearing in the KCK case – the case against 46 lawyers who are accused of being involved in terrorism. There were surprising developments in the case.
Recent arrests of lawyers
There are more lawyers who have been arrested. On Monday 21 November 2016, four lawyers were arrested in Mardin (Southeast Turkey): Ziya Bagi, Seher Acar, Mahmut Bingol and Feyzi Adsız. They are all members of the Mesapotamic Lawyers Association, and were engaged in documenting human rights violations in the area where fighting was taking place in the conflict between the Turkish army and the PKK. At the beginning of November, three lawyers (and seven journalists) from the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet were arrested in Istanbul: Kemal Gungor, Bülent Utku and Akin Atalay. They are still being held in pre-trial detention.
On 14 November 2016, Levent Pişkin was arrested. He is HDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş’ lawyer, an LGBTI activist and a member of the OHD. He was arrested shortly after he visited Demirtaş, who was arrested at the beginning of November, in prison. Together with the Law Society of England and Wales, L4L called for his release. On 16 November 2016, Piskin was provisionally released. The (only) question posed to him during his detention was why he wanted to talk to Demirtaş.
L4L is deeply concerned about developments in Turkey and will continue to follow these closely, by, among other things, continuing to monitor hearings in cases involving lawyers. L4L will also continue to urge the Turkish government to respect lawyers and their role in the rule of law, in line with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. Click here for the press release.
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