The Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers has written an open letter to the President of Turkey expressing grave concern over charges against their colleague Ramazan Demir, a lawyer and member of the Istanbul Bar who is facing disciplinary charges for allegedly “offending the dignity of a public authority in the performance of its duties” while defending his client in court during the KCK trial of 44 journalists in Istanbul.
To: President of Turkey, Mr. Abdullah Gül, Cumhurbaskanligi 06100 Ankara, Turkey; Email: [email protected]
27 November 2013
Letter of Concern regarding Av. Ramazan Demir/Istanbul Bar
Dear Mr. President,
On behalf of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers I am writing to express our serious concern about the charges against our colleague Advocate Ramazan Demir. We know Adv. Demir as a highly responsible lawyer and we are greatly concerned to hear of these attacks on his professional integrity.
According to the information we have received from reliable sources, Adv. Demir has been summoned to appear before the special prosecutor of the 15th Criminal Court in Silivri in relation to a statement he made in the course of his duties as counsel in court on 16 November 2012. No complaint was made by either the judge or the prosecutor at the time he made the statement, however, six months later, on 13 May 2013, the prosecutor placed him under formal investigation, alleging a violation of article 125 of the Turkish Criminal Code, namely “offending the dignity of a public authority in the performance of its duties”.
The alleged statement was made in what is known as the “KCK Press Trial” in which 44 journalists stand accused in Silivri. Adv. Demir on behalf of his client requested that an expert witness should be appointed. He stated the self-evident fact that it is not open to a prosecutor to simply assert that journalists lacked “independence” or behaved in any way inappropriate to their profession. Such an allegation must be proved by expert evidence on issues such as journalistic ethics and the international human rights guarantees of freedom of expression.
On the basis of his request, we understand that Adv. Demir now faces prosecution for an offence of “insulting or offending the dignity of a public authority in the performance of his duties.”
We further understand that, at the request of the special prosecutor, the Bar Association of Istanbul has, twelve months after the in-court statement, initiated a disciplinary investigation into Adv. Demir.
In our view, the statements attributed to Adv. Demir form part of the routine and necessary conduct of a conscientious defence lawyer acting in accordance with his professional duties in defence of his client’s interests. We find nothing whatsoever insulting about such statements and we find it hard to believe that an experienced prosecutor could possibly take offence at them.
We find it particularly disturbing that other defence lawyers in the same case reportedly face similar charges. It appears that the case of Adv. Demir is symptomatic of the problems faced by a number of defence lawyers in Turkey when their cases have a “political” dimension.
We trust that you are familiar with the United Nations “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers” which, among other guarantees, require that lawyers must be:
“[A]ble to perform all of their professional functions (…) without being threatened with prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics” (Rule 16(c)).
In cases such as the present, there appears to be strong evidence that the prosecutor is violating the principle that lawyers must not be:
“[I]dentified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions” (Rule 18).
In view of the foregoing we ask as a matter of urgency that you do all within your power to:
- Guarantee the physical safety and integrity of Adv. Ramazan Demir;
- Ensure that all criminal charges together with allegations of professional misconduct are withdrawn immediately;
- Put an end to all forms of harassment against Adv. Demir and his professional colleagues in the exercise of the duties towards their clients;
- Uphold Turkey’s commitments to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
- Support the rights of human rights defenders in Turkey; and
- Promote respect for the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
We will be bringing these matters to the attention of the appropriate United Nations Special Rapporteurs and the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights. We will continue to monitor any further attempts to undermine the abilities of Adv. Demir and his professional colleagues to provide the professional representation to their clients and international standards of human rights require.
We look forward to your reply
Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Office of the Prime Minister Basbakanlik 06573 Ankara, Turkey, Email: [email protected]
Deputy Prime Minister Responsible for Human Rights and Counter Terrorism, Mr. Beşir Atalay, Email: [email protected]
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
President of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, Prof. Dr. Metin Feyzioğlu, Türkiye Barolar Birliği Başkanliği, Oğuzlar Mahallesi Bariş Manço Caddesi Av. Özok Sokak No: 8 06650 Balgat – Ankara, Turkey; email: [email protected]
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: [email protected]
Ambassador, Mr. Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Avenue des Arts 36-38, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50