Arbitrary detention and imprisonment of 18 lawyers in Turkey

Who we wrote to

Four United Nations special rapporteurs. We co-signed the letter with 23 other organisations and individuals.

What’s the issue

We’re concerned about the arbitrary detention and long-term imprisonment of 18 lawyers from Halkın Kukuk Bürosu (HHB, the Peoples’ Law Office) and Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği (ÇHD, the Progressive Lawyers Association) in violation of fair trial principles and of their rights to freedom of expression.

The ‘trial’ of the lawyers took place in three hearings. Six of the lawyers had been held in pre-trial detention. The lawyers were convicted of terrorism offences linked to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and sentenced to prison terms.

What we asked for

We asked the special rapporteurs to urge the Turkish authorities to:

  • immediately acquit the 18 lawyers and to urgently release those in detention pending appeal
  • stop all forms of harassment, including judicial harassment, against these individuals and other lawyers and human rights defenders in Turkey, and allow them to perform their professional and lawful functions without intimidation or improper interference
  • immediately stop using oppressive methods against individuals who are critical of the human rights violations perpetrated by the state authorities and security forces
  • ensure the independence of the judiciary by law and practice and to protect judges, prosecutors and lawyers from undue interference
  • comply with the provisions of the ICCPR, UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and other international instruments on the protection and promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms

We asked the special rapporteurs to intervene in these serious matters and to raise these issues with the Turkish authorities as a matter of priority.

Timeline

September 2017 – 16 lawyers from HHB and ÇHD were taken into custody on the basis of allegations that they were members of or leading members of the DHKP-C

November 2017 – the chair of ÇHD, Selçuk Kozağaçlı, was arrested and remanded in custody

December 2017 – Yaprak Türkmen was taken into custody under the same investigation file before her pre-trial detention was ordered

March 2018 – the Istanbul Public Prosecutor prepared and issued an indictment

September 2018 – the Istanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court ordered the release of all 17 detained lawyers but less than 24 hours after their release, the Prosecutor’s Office objected. The court panel issued a new arrest warrant for 12 of the 17 lawyers

December 2018 – six of the previously arrested lawyers had been arrested again

March 2019 – the final hearing was held, where the lawyers were convicted of terrorism offences linked to DHKP-C and sentenced to prison terms