Surprising developments in the KCK case
On 14 November 2016, observers from Lawyers for Lawyers, Fair Trial Watch and a representative of 11 regional Dutch Bar Associations again attended a hearing in the KCK case – the case against 46 lawyers who are accused of being involved in terrorism. They were all at some point involved in the defense of the PKK leader, Abdullah Öcalan and are supposed to have communicated instructions from Öcalan to his supporters. The trial started in November 2011 and was initially heard by a special court for terrorism cases. After these courts were abolished in March 2014, the case was referred to an ordinary court in Istanbul.
During the hearing on 14 November, the trial was handled by three new judges and a new prosecutor. The defense argued that the prosecutor and the president of the court who handled the case originally were Gülen supporters, who would have fabricated the allegations against the suspects. Furthermore, the defense stated that there are connected files, which should be added to the case file, and that the present case file is a mess. They asked the new prosecutor to re-evaluate the case and the evidence, and requested a postponement of the hearing in order to investigate these issues. After the prosecutor accepted this request – which was the first time in this case that such a request was accepted -, the hearing was postponed until 9 March 2017.
Although the lawyers were pleased with this development, the position of lawyers in Turkey and the rule of law generally are very worrying. The observers have conducted interviews with various lawyers, including from the OHD (Lawyers for Freedom) and the newspaper Cumhuriyet. All confirmed that in fact the Rule of Law no longer exists in Turkey where five days after the coup on 5 July 2015, a state of emergency was declared. The country is ruled by decree, and judges who issue rulings that are not in line with the ideas of the government are themselves at risk of imprisonment.
On the morning of 14 November 2016, Levent Piskin, a lawyer and member of the OHD, was arrested. Two days later he was provisionally released. Earlier, seven journalists and three lawyers of the Cumhuriyet were arrested. They remain in pre-trial detention.
Lawyers for Lawyers 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. Lawyers for Lawyers 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.
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