Turkey: Provisional releases and continued judicial harassment of 47 lawyers, one journalist, one legal secretary and two drivers

20/03/2014
Press release

New information
TUR 002 / 0613 / OBS 059.1
Provisional releases / Judicial harassment /
Arbitrary detentions
Turkey
March 20, 2014

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the continued judicial harassment of 47 lawyers, one journalist, one legal secretary and two drivers [1] and the provisional release of nine lawyers and one journalist.

According to the information received, on March 18, 2014, the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 1 ordered the provisional release of nine lawyers, Messrs. Doğan Erbaş, İbrahim Bilmez, Ömer Güneş, Cengiz Çiçek, Muharrem Şahin, Emran Emekçi, Sebahattin Kaya, Mehmet Bayraktar and Ms. Hatice Korkut and one journalist, Mr. Cengiz Kapmaz, arguing that that there was no reasonable ground to keep them in detention [2]. The aforementioned had been detained since November 2011. To date, all of the accused are free. No date was set for the following hearing.

This decision follows the recent closure of specialised heavy penal courts following a reform of the Turkish Penal Procedure Code. After the Istanbul Special Heavy Penal Court No. 16 was closed, the hearing of the case was provisionally transferred to an ordinary court, the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 1. Thereafter the case will be held before the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 19.

The Observatory recalls that the lawyers have been involved in the legal representation of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and have participated in the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) [3] trial held before Diyarbakır Special Heavy Penal Court No. 6. During the KCK trial, in their capacity as defence lawyers, they took stance against the ban to use the Kurdish language.

The Observatory welcomes the provisional release of the above-mentioned lawyers and journalist and thanks all the persons, institutions and organisations who intervened in their favour. However, the Observatory regrets that several of them were arbitrarily detained for more than two years, and remains deeply concerned about their ongoing judicial harassment for allegedly “passing” Abdullah Öcalan’s “orders” and being members or executives of an illegal organisation, the KCK.

The Observatory considers this trial to amount to judicial harassment for their activities as human rights lawyers, and calls upon the Turkish judicial authorities to unconditionally drop all charges.

The Observatory further recalls that this trial is one of dozens of ongoing mass show trials of Kurdish intellectuals and activists in Turkey. Since 2009, over 8,000 people have been arrested in the name of the KCK investigations – counter-terrorism operations that in reality have little to do with countering terrorism, but rather have been used as a means of criminalising peaceful dissent and Kurdish political and cultural expression.

In particular, 22 lawyers belonging to the Progressive Lawyers Association (Cagdas Hukukçular Dernegi – ÇHD) who had been involved in the defence of the above-mentioned lawyers are also facing terrorism charges since January 2013, five of them remain in pre-trial detention to date, namely Mr. Selçuk Kozağaçlı, ÇHD National President (Ankara Bar Association); Mr. Taylan Tanay, President of ÇHD Istanbul branch (Istanbul Bar Association); Mr. Günay Dağ, member (Istanbul Bar Association); Ms. Ebru Timtik, member (Istanbul Bar Association) and Ms. Barkın Timtik, member (Istanbul Bar Association) [4].

Background information:

On November 22, 2011, an unprecedented broad campaign of arrest was launched and targeted dozens of lawyers from the Ağrı, Ardahan, Batman, Bursa, Diyarbakır, Denizli, Hakkari, Istanbul, Izmir, Kars, Mersin, Mus, Siirt, Sırnak, Urfa, Van Bar Associations, one journalist and three staff working for Asrin Law Firm (one legal secretary and two law office drivers) in the scope of an anti-terrorism operation. Several of the lawyers belonged to Asrin Law Firm. They were taken into custody in Istanbul for their alleged membership in KCK under charges of “membership in an illegal organisation” and “directing an illegal organisation”.

All were remanded into custody pending the end of the investigation after they had been interrogated at the Beşiktaş (Istanbul) Heavy Penal Court No. 11 and detained in İstanbul Bakırköy Closed Prison for Females or Kocaeli Kandıra F Type Closed Prison No. 2. Some were arrested a few weeks or months after. At the beginning of the detention, communication between some of the lawyers and their families was restricted.

On April 18, 2012, the court accepted the indictment order submitted to it on April 6. 46 lawyers together with one journalist and three staff working for Asrin Law Firm were charged of “belonging to a criminal organisation” under Article 314 of the TPC.

The indictment is mostly based on recordings of discussions held between Abdullah Öcalan and his lawyers in the visiting room of İmralı Island Prison, in violation of the principle of confidentiality between lawyer and client, which is fundamental to an effective legal defence or on evidence related to acts ordinarily conducted by lawyers to defend their clients.

On July 16-17, 2012, the trial opened before the Istanbul Special Heavy Penal Court No. 16 in Çağlayan Justice Palace. At the time, only 36 lawyers and the journalist remained in pre-trial detention. All other had been provisionally released. At the end of this hearing nine lawyers were provisionally released. Dozens of international trial observers monitored the hearing, including one lawyer mandated by the Observatory. Trial observers complained about the very bad material conditions of the hearing, which impaired the right to a fair trial.

Subsequently, one-day hearings took place on November 6, 2012, January 3, 2013 and March 27, 2013 inside the Campus of the Silivri Prison, which has larger courtrooms. But, still, at some hearings, the family of the accused were denied access to the courtroom due to the lack of space. One lawyer was provisionally released on January 3 and four on March 27.

On June 20, 2013, the Istanbul Special Heavy Penal Court No. 16 held in the Campus of the Silivri Prison the fifth hearing in this long running mass trial of lawyers. The court heard several of the accused and decided to provisionally release seven of them, mostly some it had heard at the previous hearing. Defence lawyers raised several irregularities in the act of indictment. The prosecution of another lawyer, Mr. Bekir Kaya, was joined to this case. The Court postponed the hearing to September 17, 2013.

On September 17, 2013, the Istanbul Special Heavy Penal Court No. 6 released several of the lawyers who remained in pre-trial detention.

Actions required:

Please write to the Turkish authorities, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of the above-mentioned 47 lawyers, one journalist, one legal secretary and two drivers, as well as all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Release Mr. Selçuk Kozağaçlı, Mr. Taylan Tanay, Mr. Günay Dağ, Ms. Ebru Timtik and Ms. Barkın Timtik immediately and unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary and only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts harassment, including at the judicial level, against the above-mentioned human rights defenders, as well as against all human rights defenders in Turkey and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances;

iv. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Turkey.

Addresses:

· President of Turkey, Mr. Abdullah Gül, Cumhurbaskanligi 06100 Ankara, Turkey; Fax: +90 312 468 5026; Email: cumhurbaskanligi@tccb.gov.tr
· Prime Minister, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Office of the Prime Minister Basbakanlik 06573 Ankara, Turkey, Fax: + 90 312 417 0476; Email: receptayyip.erdogan@basbakanlik.gov.tr
· Deputy Prime Minister Responsible for Human Rights and Counter Terrorism, Mr. Beşir Atalay, Email: besir.atalay@tbmm.gov.tr, Fax: 00 90 (312) 422 13 98
· Interior Minister, Mr. Idris Naim Şahin, 06644 Ankara, Turkey; Fax: + 90 312 418 17 95 / +90 312 418 7696,
· Justice Minister, Mr. Sadullah Ergin, Ministry of Justice/ Adalet Bakanligi, 06659 Ankara, Turkey; Fax: + 90 312 414 62 26
· Foreign Minister, Mr. Ahmed Davudoglu, Office of the Prime Minister, Basbakanlik, 06573 Ankara, Turkey; Fax: +90 312 287 88 11
· Ambassador, Mr. Oğuz Demiralp, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Ch. du Petit-Saconnex 28b - CP 271, CH-1211, Geneva 19, Switzerland, E-mail: mission.turkey@ties.itu.int, Fax: +41 22 734 08 59
· Ambassador, Mr. Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Avenue des Arts 36-38, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50.

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