Turkey prosecutes lawyers for defending their clients
20 July 2012
We, the members of the UK delegation observing the trial, at the High Criminal Court of Istanbul, on July 16-18th, of the 36 lawyers on terror charges, issue this statement:
This was clearly a political trial whose purpose was to repress the Kurdish people and destroy their hopes for obtaining their fundamental rights, for equal treatment before the law and a solution to the conflict through dialogue and peaceful negotiations. It lacked the very basic principles of a Fair Trial. The defendants were never given the full indictments so that they could prepare their cases. The interviews they held with their client were always in the presence of a Ministry of Justice official, and in any case the conversations were unlawfully recorded and taped, so that there was no confidentiality. These lawyers have been in prison for the last eight months, when, according to international standards, they should have been bailed.
The defendants are lawyers representing the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, who following his kidnap twelve years ago has been incarcerated on the Island of Imrali. It is an absolute right for anyone accused of a crime to be defended and these lawyers were simply doing their job.
Although the authorities were well aware that there would be many lawyers including those from international delegations, attending the trial, as well as the relatives of the accused, they rejected the request to hear the case in the large conference room. Instead the trial took place in a very small courtroom, without air conditioning and with poor audio equipment. It was often impossible to hear, let alone see, what was going on. The proceedings were rowdy, at times either explosive or lapsing into near farce, as the defendants’ lawyers argued that the court itself was illegal and the judge had no right to try the case, for the proceedings and charges were a breach of the constitution.
Turkey has imprisoned more lawyers than any other country in the world. While this trial demonstrates the State’s determination to suppress its Kurdish population, using the courts to endorse criminal sanctions, its brazen attack on lawyers has revealed dramatically the grave defects in its justice system which will be of concern to all Turkish citizens, not just the Kurds. Also the injustices and irregularities of this trial have united the entire legal profession in Turkey.
This trial is important because it will determine whether the deadlock on the Kurdish problem will be resolved, or will continue. It also illustrates how far Turkey has to go before it can claim to be a democratic country with respect for the Rule of Law.
On Wednesday the 18th July nine out of 36 jailed lawyers of Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Öcalan have been released on conditions of judicial control and ban on leaving the country. The inference is that the Judge wished to demonstrate, in view of the large numbers of international observers present, that the system was capable of delivering justice. But no one should be deceived by these acquittals. At the least and in accordance with international standards, all 36 lawyers should have been bailed, but this was refused again this week.
We, as independent observers, demand that the detained lawyers are released and the prosecutions against them are discontinued with immediate effect; that their legal status as defence lawyers is reinstated and any restrictions on their ability to practice are lifted.
*) Margaret Owen OBE, barrister & Ali Has, Solicitor-Advocate
A full report will be published soon.
The UK delegates are supported by Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Bar Human Rights Committee, South Lanarkshire UNISON and UNITE, London North West Branch 9708
For further information contact:
Margie O <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ali Has <email@example.com>
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Bairbre de Brún MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, John Austin, Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Mark Thomas