Trial against lawyer Can Tombul
On 12 December, Lawyers for Lawyers, Fair Trial Watch, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, the European Democratic Lawyers and the Human Rights Committee of the Norwegian Bar Association called on the authorities of Turkey to immediately release lawyer Can Tombul.
Can Tombul works as a lawyer of the Law Bureau of the Oppressed (EHB). Together with his colleagues Mr. Tombul represents victims and family members of victims of the bombings / massacres in Ankara and Suruç in 2015. He has also been involved in documenting human rights violations in South-East Turkey.
Can Tombul was arrested on 31 July 2018 in Istanbul on charges of ‘membership of a terrorist organization’, and has been held in pre-trail detention ever since. The first hearing in his case was on 13 December 2018. We were informed that his case file contains information that directly relates to his work as a lawyer: regarding meetings with clients, telephone calls, twitter messages about cases and about human rights violations, demonstrations etc. Two funerals he attended in 2013 and 2015 are also cited as evidence of the charges against him.
Mr. Tombul’s colleagues at EHB are also being prosecuted for alleged involvement in terrorist activities. Theses lawyers represented family members of people who died in Syria while fighting ISIS. In the course of representing these clients, the lawyers offered legal aid to repatriate the bodies of the deceased, attended autopsies, gathered facts about victims’ deaths and attended victims’ funerals. They also attended protests, presented press statements and posted social media posts about human rights violations.
These arrests, detentions and prosecutions form part of a wave of arrests of lawyers accused of involvement in terrorism for activities performed in their professional capacity. Since July 2016 more than 1500 lawyers have been prosecuted, 593 lawyers have been arrested, and 208 lawyers have been sentenced – 15 of them in November 2018 alone – to long imprisonments by first instance courts under article 314 of the Penal Code of Turkey. Article 314 criminalizes membership in and leadership of an armed organization. Lawyers have particularly been targeted due to the identity or the affinity of their clients.
By letter, Lawyers for Lawyers, Fair Trial Watch, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, the Avocats Européens Démocrates / European Democratic Lawyers (AED) and the Human Rights Committee of the Norwegian Bar Association called on the authorities of Turkey to immediately release lawyer Can Tombul and to drop the charges against his colleagues.
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