Press conference on the situation and plight of lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal
On 11 August, a press conference and open discussion is being organized to draw attention to the plight of human rights lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal, who have been on hunger strike since February 2020 to strengthen their demand for fair trials and the administration of justice in Turkey.
The two lawyers started their hunger strike in February 2020, in protest of the long jail sentences they have been sentenced to on charges of “membership of a terrorist organisation”. Together with 16 other progressive lawyers, Ebru and Aytaç have passed several critical stages of their case, which began with protest against their conviction of terrorist offences. Their convictions were based on allegations made by anonymous witnesses and had no access to the evidence. They also raised serious concerns on the systemic violation of fair trial rights in Turkey. Their physical condition is extremely troubling, especially for Ebru, who is seen as being in a near death situation.
On 5 April 2020, Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal turned their hunger strike into a ‘death fast’.
On 27 July, the Istanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court ruled that Timtik and Ünsal should undergo a medical examination at the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institution. The Forensic Medicine Institution noted in their report on the health conditions of Timtik and Ünsal that it was not ‘suitable’ for them to remain in prison and that medical follow-up and treatment should be done in a hospital.
Consequently, the lawyers of Timtik and Ünsal submitted a petition to the Istanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court on 30 July. The petition included the medical report from the institution, their request for release, petitions signed by lawyers from Turkey and 150 petitions that were signed by international lawyers requesting their release.
On 30 July, the court denied the request for release and ruled that the detention of Timtik and Ünsal shall continue, citing their conviction on terrorism-related charges and the existence of a flight risk. The court requested the public prosecutor’s office to provide immediate medical care for Timik and Ünsal in a hospital. The lawyers of Timtik and Ünsal have filed an appeal against the court’s decision to not release the lawyers.
Ebru and Aytaç are two of over 1,500 lawyers arrested and prosecuted for alleged terrorist offences in Turkey since the attempted coup in July 2016. Many Turkish and European bar associations, lawyers’ organisations and NGOs have reported on the serious flaws in the case against them, the situation of the lawyers in Turkey and the violations which they have suffered. The need to highlight the urgency of Ebru and Aytaç’s plight is greatly increased.
Press conference and open discussion
To draw attention to Ebru and Aytaç’s deteriorating health situation and to join voices in order to help them be heard by the authorities with the hope that their lives could be saved, an online press conference is organized on 11 August 2020 at 4.00 pm (CEST). The press conference will be in relation to their current state, their plight, the situation of lawyers who are being persecuted in Turkey, and to demand, as members of the national and international lawyers’ community, that the Turkish authorities address the failings in the trials which have taken place and facilitate Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal’s immediate release pending trial. A program is available here. A video of the press conference will be released after the event.
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