Turkey has prosecuted some 1,600 lawyers and arrested 615 since the failed coup: report

Turkey has prosecuted more than 1,600 lawyers and arrested 615 of them for terrorism since a failed coup in 2016, Turkish minute reported, citing a recently published report by the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, a lawyer advocacy group.

According to the report entitled “The Repression”, 474 lawyers had been sentenced to a total of 2,966 years in prison for belonging to a terrorist group or disseminating terrorist propaganda as of December 10.

Turkey survived a 2016 coup attempt, which the government blames on the Gülen movement, a faith-based group that focuses on science education and interfaith and intercultural dialogue inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, d ‘have orchestrated. The failed coup was followed by a two-year state of emergency declared by the government.

The Gülen movement firmly denies any involvement.

“Laws with an overly broad definition of terrorism and membership of a criminal organization and the tendency of the judiciary to stretch them even further are not a new problem in Turkey, as evidenced by numerous judgments of the European Court rights, ”the report said, adding:“ This problem has reached unprecedented levels in recent times. Prosecutors, and increasingly courts, regard lawful and peaceful acts and statements protected by the European Convention on Human Rights as evidence of criminal activity.

Critics characterize Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation broad and vague because of the definition of “terrorism” in Article 1.

The law could “be used for politically motivated prosecutions against political opponents, human rights defenders and journalists, in particular for” alleged membership of a terrorist organization, “UN rapporteurs said in a periodic review in 2020.

“In conclusion, the report finds that the current repression of the Turkish government violates the right to liberty and security and freedom of association of lawyers, abolishes guarantees against torture and diminishes the independence of bars”, said a press release from the Arrested Lawyers Initiative. Friday.

Prominent lawyers and jurists around the world have expressed concern over Turkey’s continued crackdown on lawyers.

“The CCBE (Council of Bars of Europe), as the voice of Europe legal profession, is very concerned about the prosecution derogation from the essential rights of lawyers and the lack of respect for their independence in Turkey in recent years. We have witnessed a systematic and continuous violation, in hundreds of cases, from several of the United Nations Basic Principles on the role of lawyers, including principle 18 which stipulates that lawyers should not be identified with their clients or the cause of their clients in the performance of their duties, ”said Stefan von Raumer, President of the CCBE Human Rights Committee, quoted by the Arrested Lawyers Initiative.

According to the report, lawyers have been particularly targeted because of the identity or affinities of their clients.

Dozens of lawyers defending suspects linked to Gülen have been arrested over alleged links to Gülen over the past five years.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan has attacked supporters of the movement, since the corruption investigations from December 17 to 25, 2013, which involved then Prime Minister ErdoÄŸan, members of his family and relatives. Dismissing the investigations as a Gulenist coup and a plot against his government, ErdoÄŸan called the movement a terrorist organization and began targeting its members. He stepped up the crackdown on the movement following the attempted coup.

“The DAV (the German Bar Association) wishes to express its grave concern over the continued intimidation of lawyers in Turkey. There is no doubt that in Turkey not all lawyers are able to perform their duties professional duties without fear of reprisal or harassment. This is a great danger for the indispensable independence of the administration of justice and the rule of law, ”said Dr Sylvia Ruge, CEO of the DAV.

Lawyers detained on false charges are questioned about their professional activities such as the types of cases they plead and the number of cases relating to suspects suspected of having links with the Gülen movement; contractual and monetary relations with their clients; how they find their customers and the average fees charged; and their professional relationships with other lawyers stemming from basic legal practices, according to the report, citing an Amnesty International statement in 2020 on the mass arrest of lawyers in Ankara at the time.

“The systematic and widespread persecution of human rights lawyers in Turkey since 2016 is of growing concern. Turkish authorities regularly arrest and imprison human rights lawyers illegitimate charges. These unfair lawsuits and trials violate the most fundamental principles of human rights. it’s alarming that Turkey challenged the European Court of Human Rights Rights by refusing to comply with its decisions, ”said Catherine Morris, executive director of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada.

According to the report, “the efforts and cooperation of international organizations, as well as any other organizations that may join them in the future, are essential to exert pressure on Turkey to respect human rights. universal human rights and aligns its criminal law with specified standards. by the European Convention on Human Rights and which is acceptable to the European Commission and the European Union.

Bars in European countries should form a united front against violations of Turkey’s rights to help end the criminalization of Turkish lawyers, according to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative.

“After the coup attempt in Turkey, the Turkish government launched abusive mass prosecutions against lawyers across the country,” said Eleonora Mongelli, vice president of the Italian Federation for Human Rights ( FIDU).

“As stated in this important report, hundreds of lawyers have been detained, prosecuted and convicted on account of suspected terrorism-related offenses. These people are suffering inhumane treatment in overcrowded prisons; they are faced indefinite preventive detention on the basis of vague charges, and heavy sentences handed down after unfair trials, simply for having done their job. job.”

FIDU urged the Turkish government to respect universal human rights and to bring its criminal law “into conformity with the standards specified by the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as to safeguard the standards of the Council of Europe “.

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