L4L and FTW monitor trial of lawyer Can Tombul
On 18 April, representatives of Lawyers for Lawyers and Fair Trial Watch attended the third hearing in the case of lawyer Can Tombul in Istanbul. Nardy Desloover, ex-president of the Rotterdam Bar Association, who represented the Dutch Bar Associations, attended the hearing as well. During the hearing, all requests made by the defence of lawyer Can Tombul were denied and the trial was postponed to 12 June 2019.
Can Tombul works at the Ezilenlerin Hukuk Bürosu, the Law Office of the Oppressed. He has been in pre-trial detention since his arrest on 31 July 2018. His colleagues Ozlem Gümüstas, Sezin Üçar and Gülhan Kaya are also being prosecuted; Sezin and Ozlem were released in October 2018 after 11,5 months of pre-trial detention but the case against them is still ongoing. Until his arrest, Can Tombul was their defence lawyer.
Can Tombul was arrested for the first time at the beginning of 2015 in Ankara, on suspicion of being a member of a terrorist organization, and then released after 8 days. Hereafter, an investigation against him was initiated by Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office onthe basis of the same charges, resulting in Can Tombul’s arrest on 31 July 2018. On 13 December 2018 and 5 February 2019, the first two hearings in the trial against Can Tombul took place.
At the hearing on 18 April, Can Tombul and his defence lawyers emphasized that the allegations against him are the same as in the case initiated by the Public Prosecutor in Ankara. They stated that the Prosecutor in Instanbul started an investigation because he did not agree with the decision of the prosecutor from Ankara to not object to the release of Tombul. Furthermore, the prosecutor from Istanbul who started the investigation and made the indictment is now being prosecuted himself, among other things for falsifying evidence. The defence lawyers asked the court to add the case file of this prosecution to the file of the case against Tombul, which was denied.
There are three main issues in this case: the mobile phone of Tombul was off during a period of 2 months (which means according to the prosecutor he was in Syria during that period ), there is a statement of a witness against Tombul (stating that he was in Syria for training), and he supposedly gave a coded message to one of his detained clients. The defence denied all allegations. During the hearing, Can Tombul stated that he can prove that during the period that his mobile phone was off he attended hearings in Ankara as a lawyer. The witness statement was disputed (the witness was released from detention shortly after giving the statement). The description he gives does not fit Tombul and the defence has so far been unable to question this witness. The coded message was not handed over by Tombul, and the client confirms this; even though meetings with clients were always under the supervision of guards, no proof of Tombul giving the coded message is in the case file.
The defence requested the court to transfer the case back to Ankara. The defence furthermore requested the lifting of the pre-trial detention. Both requests were denied. The case is postponed until 12 June 2019.
The representatives also met with Didem Ünsal, one of the lawyers of the ÇHD, colleague of Selçuk Kozağaçlı, who will receive the Lawyers for Lawyers Award 2019, and was recently sentenced to 11 years and 3 months. She herself has been sentenced to 3 years and 9 months. Didem emphasized that Selçuk and the other convicted lawyers of the ÇHD who are in prison continue to do their work from prison. All lawyers appealed their sentences, and they keep hoping that justice will be done.
Lawyers for Lawyers will keep on monitoring these cases, and the situation of lawyers in Turkey in general, closely.
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