Turkey: Lawyers concerned by a mass trial targeting their peers

Press release
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International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA)
Conférence Internationale des Barreaux de Tradition Juridique Commune (CIB)
Fédération des Barreaux d’Europe (FBE)
European Democratic Lawyers (EDL / AED)
European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights
International Association of People’s Lawyers
Sollicitors International Human Rights Group (UK)
Lawyers for Lawyers (Netherlands)
Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
Democratic Lawyers of Switzerland
Fair Trial Watch (Netherlands)
Progress Lawyers Network (Belgium)
Lawyers Without Borders (Sweden)
Conseil National des Barreaux (France)
Netherlands Bar Association
Conférence des Bâtonniers de France et d’Outre-Mer
Fédération Nationale des Unions de Jeunes Avocats (FNUJA)
Syndicat des Avocats de France (SAF)
Berliner Anwaltskammer
Ordre français des Avocats du Barreau de Bruxelles
Barreau de Grenoble
Barreau de Montpellier
Barreau de Paris
Barreau de Rennes
Institut des Droits d l’Homme du Barreau de Bruxelles
Institut des droits de l’Homme du Barreau de Grenoble
Institut des Droits de l’Homme du Barreau de Montpellier

From July 16 to 18, 2012, our organisations attended in Istanbul the opening of the trial indicting 46 lawyers, 3 legal staff and 1 journalist.

We recall that identifying a lawyer with his client amounts to an unacceptable criminalization of the lawyers’ profession.

Our organisations denounce a mass trial that targets lawyers, who seem to be identified with their clients or their clients’ political opinions. We are concerned by the resort to provisional detention against 36 of the accused lawyers, as well as by the fact that all requests for their release from pre-trial detention have been systematically rejected for 8 months, without providing any reasons.

The defence lawyers raised multiple procedural irregularities and introduced several petitions, pointing notably to:
 the lack of jurisdiction of the Heavy Penal Court to entertain these cases ;
 the lack of definition of the constitutive elements of the charges ;
 the lack of individualisation in the proceedings;
 the violation of the right to cross-examine the main witness presented by the Prosecution.

Some petitions were dismissed, for the most without providing any reasons and while decisions on the others will be rendered at the next hearing.

It was further noticed that the material conditions in which the hearings were held are not worthy of the principles which govern the right to a fair trial:
 the capacity of the courtroom prevented many of the defendants’ lawyers, as well as their families, to attend the hearing;
 the lawyers who could access the courtroom had to work in particularly precarious conditions, which were incompatible with the normal practice of defence.

Our organisations take note of the fact that 9 of the sued lawyers were provisionally released after these three days of hearings. We nevertheless express our concern about the fate reserved to the 27 lawyers who remain in detention, and affirm our intention to follow with the utmost attention the development of these proceedings until their conclusion.

We are also concerned by the decision of the Court to resume the hearing only on November 6, 2012, and recall that the European Convention on Human Rights compels Turkey to adopt a decision within a reasonable time frame – especially when the defendants are detained – in order not to unnecessarily extend their detention.

Our organisations thereof intend to express, at the end of these three days of hearings, their deepest concern about the way the trial is conducted, as well as about the respect of the fundamental guarantees of the rights of the defence. They call upon the Turkish authorities to take prompt action in order to remedy the previously noticed irregularities, as well as to ensure that the rules of a fair trial are complied with.

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