Rule of law

Online press conference: Lawyers on hunger strike in Turkey

On 11 August 2020 we participated in a press conference on the urgent situation of Turkish human rights lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal, who have been on hunger strike since February 2020.

They are serving long prison sentences and are demanding a fair trial, due process, and access to justice, for them and for others in Turkey.

Speakers included:

  • Mehmet Durakoğlu, president of the İstanbul Bar Association
  • Özkan Yücel, president of the İzmir Bar Association
  • Artur Wierzbicki, president of the Human Rights Commission at the European Bars Federation (FBE)
  • Jacques Bouyssou, member of the Human Rights Committee at the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE)
  • Irma van den Berg (Lawyers for Lawyers)
  • Tony Fisher (member of the Law Society of England and Wales International Committee and former chair of its Human Rights Comittee, London)

In the last 15 minutes there was an opportunity for a Q&A for journalists.

Hunger strike – death fast

As of 4 August 2020, fellow lawyer Ebru Timtik was on the 215thday of her hunger strike (death fast) and Aytaç Ünsal on the 184thday of his. They have been in pre-trial detention for almost three years.

Their lawyers recently submitted a request to Istanbul 37thAssize Court, before which they have been tried, to demand their release on the basis that their health has deteriorated to such an extent that it is not appropriate that they remain in prison. Upon receipt of this request the Court transferred Ebru and Aytaç to the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institute and asked the experts to examine them. The experts at the Institute reported that Ebru and Aytaç’s physical condition made it inappropriate for them to remain in detention. The Court, instead of releasing them pending the outcome of their appeal, ordered their transfer to a hospital following this report.

They are currently held as pre-trial detainees in a special ward of a hospital that is a COVID-19 Pandemic Hospital.

Together with 16 other progressive lawyers, Ebru and Aytaç have passed several critical stages of their case, which began with protest against their conviction of terrorist offences.

Their convictions were based on allegations made by anonymous witnesses and had no access to the evidence. They also raised serious concerns on the systemic violation of fair trial rights in Turkey. Their physical condition is extremely troubling, especially for Ebru, who is seen as being in a near death situation.

Ebru and Aytaç are two of over 1,500 lawyers arrested and prosecuted for alleged terrorist offences in Turkey since the attempted coup in July 2016.

Many Turkish and European bar associations, lawyers’ organisations and NGOs have reported on the serious flaws in the case against them, the situation of the lawyers in Turkey and the violations which they have suffered. The need to highlight the urgency of Ebru and Aytaç’s plight is greatly increased.

Read the joint statement on Ebru Timtik and Aytac Unsal – Turkish lawyers on hunger strike (PDF 162 KB)

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