Arrest of 48 lawyers, 7 trainee lawyers, 4 purged judges and a law graduate, for being “members of a terrorist organisation” in Turkey: Joint Statement

Through the new “alternative bar associations” legislation and President Erdogan’s own words “Those who act as the lawyers of terrorists may not act like terrorists themselves. If they do so, there must be a price to pay”, which he said in the presence of judges and prosecutors in the new judicial year opening ceremony, the Turkish government had already signaled that a new phase in the persecution of lawyers was about to start.

Only a few days after President Erdogan’s speech, today (11 September 2020), the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor has ordered the arrest of 48 lawyers, 7 trainee lawyers, 4 purged judges and a law graduate, for being “members of a terrorist organisation” According to the report of the state-run Anatolian News Agency, their arrests were sought for no other offence than representing those whom the government considered dissidents and who were accused of being involved in “terrorism”.

The arrested lawyers were not to be allowed a conference with anybody and would be held in custody for at least 12 days, in violation of the existing criminal procedure laws. It has also been reported that during the arrest and search procedure (of the residences of the lawyers) procedural laws were violated, and woman lawyers were handcuffed with their hands behind their backs and were subjected to ill-treatment. It is a widely-accepted fact that, in Turkey, “terrorism” charges are political in nature and are used to repress, intimidate and silence any opposition.

Contrary to what the government has been suggesting, those who are arrested, detained and convicted are subjected to such unlawful actions, only because of their political views and their criticism of the government. In Turkey, lawyers are being arrested and prosecuted on a massive scale following the attempted coup of 15th July, 2016.

It all started with the arrest of the President of the Konya Bar Association and has continued ever since without losing any momentum. To date, over 1600 lawyers have been arrested, and more than 600 of them imprisoned. 441 lawyers have, on the other hand, been convicted of “being a member of a terrorist organisation”. The mass arrests are carried out to intimidate and deter lawyers, as they serve a critical purpose in the fight against the various unlawful actions of the police and the judiciary, including torture and ill-treatment.

The persecution of lawyers facilitates the torture and ill-treatment of detained persons and prevents them from asking that their fundamental human rights be respected. The fact that the arrests in question were carried out in Ankara[5], which has the highest number of COVID-19 infections, is another cause for concern. This has happened at a time when the Council of Europe and the UN’s human rights organs have stressed that custodial measures, such as arrest and detention, should not be carried out during the pandemic unless such measures are absolutely necessary. (source: arrestedlawyers.org/ photo: pixabay)

Read the full statement here

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