President Diyarbakir Bar arrested for comments in TV interview
In an open letter, Lawyers for Lawyers, together with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and Fair Trial Watch express their grave concern over the investigation faced by their colleague atty Tahir Elçi, a prominent human rights lawyer and president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association.
On 20 October 2015, Tahir Elçi was arrested by the anti-terror police in the offices of the Diyarbakir Bar Association and brought to Istanbul to be interrogated by the Bakirköy Public Prosecutor.
Lawyers for Lawyers was informed that Tahir Elçi is being investigated for allegedly ‘making propaganda for, or promoting a terrorist organization’ and that he was arrested on the grounds that his whereabouts were not known and that a summons to testify before the prosecutor could not be issued.
The investigation against Tahir Elçi was started because of carefully considered comments he made on a television show in his capacity as President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association. In a live discussion on CNN Turk on 14 October 2015, he stated his opinion that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is not a terrorist organization, but rather an armed political movement with political demands that has a lot of supporters. Tahir Elçi also called for an immediate end of the conflict and a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue.
According to our information, Tahir Elçi had stated on 19 October that he was willing to come to the police station voluntarily to make a statement. As he did not receive a summons, he waited at his office at the Diyarbakir Bar Association for the police, together with a group of lawyers and politicians.
After Tahir Elçi was arrested there and questioned, the prosecutor requested the court to impose pre-trial detention. The court ordered Mr. Elçi’s release. However, his release is pending completion of the investigation, which is on-going, and restrictions have been imposed: Tahir Elçi is not allowed to leave the country and is placed under judicial supervision.
In the open letter, Lawyers for Lawyers, together with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and Fair Trial Watch, call upon the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister of Turkey to make sure that the investigation against Tahir Elçi is dropped immediately and unconditionally, and that all conditions restricting his liberty and movement are removed. The organizations strongly object to the way that the president of the Bar Association of Diyarbakir is being treated. Lawyers are entitled to freedom of expression as set out in article 23 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
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