Turkey: Conviction of lawyers deals heavy blow to right to fair trial and legal representation

20 March 2019

Responding to the conviction of 18 lawyers on the grounds that they are “members or leaders of a terrorist organisation,” Milena Buyum, Amnesty International’s Senior Campaigner on Turkey, who observed the trial hearing, said:

“Today’s convictions are a travesty of justice and demonstrate yet again the inability of courts crippled under political pressure to deliver a fair trial.“
“After more than a year in pre-trial detention for six of the lawyers, and three measly hearings marred by fair trial breaches, this politically motivated prosecution has reached it preposterous conclusion. These lawyers should be immediately and unconditionally released and the conviction quashed.”

Background

All the lawyers on trial are either members of the Progressive Lawyers Association or the People’s Law Bureau. They were charged with being members or leaders of the armed group, Revolutionary Peoples‘ Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).

The indictment against the lawyers is based on statements by secret and named witnesses and police reports containing analysis of the defendants’ digital data. However, the defence was denied the opportunity to question the digital data and the reliability of witnesses were rejected by the court on the basis that they would lengthen the proceedings.

Five of the lawyers in pre-trial detention have been on a hunger strike since 24 January 2019 in protest over the fair trial violations they have faced during their prosecution. Court separated the cases of Oya Aslan and Günay Dağ as they have not been present to give their defence since the beginning of the trial. Barkın Timtik received 18 years and 9 months for “establishing and leading a terrorist organisation”; Özgür Yılmaz and Ebru Timtik 13 years 6 months; Behiç Aşçı and Şükriye Erden 12 years; Selçuk Kozağaçlı 11 years 3 months; Engin Gökoğlu, Süleyman Gökten and Aytaç Ünsal 10 years 6 months; Aycan Çiçek and Naciye Demir 9 years; Ezgi Çakır Gökten 8 years; Ayşegül Çağatay, Didem Baydar Ünsal, Yaprak Türkmen and Yağmur Ereren Evin 3 years and 9 months; Ahmet Mandacı and Zehra Özdemir 3 years 1 month.