Twenty lawyers, members of the Contemporary Lawyers Association and the People's Law Office, were sentenced to a total of 159 years and 2 months of imprisonment on 20 March 2019. First of all we want to express that; these penalties are the most tangible form of increasing lawlessness within the State of Emergency Regime in Turkey.
The lawyer is the person who freely represents the independent defence, one of the founding elements of the judiciary. The purpose of advocacy is to regulate legal relations, to resolve all kinds of legal issues and disputes in accordance with fairness, and to ensure full implementation of the rules of law. For these purposes, lawyers, who cannot remain silent about unfair trials and the human rights violations that occur in Turkey, continue to struggle for human rights. Contemporary Lawyers Association is a non-governmental organization that carries out the struggle for law for many years. This association has recently been following important cases such as Soma mine blast, Airport workers, and Suruç Case.
As it is known to the public, every stage of the case continued unlawfully. The lawyers were taken into custody following the police raid on September 12, 2017 and were arrested on 20 September 2017. In the hearing held on 14 September 2018, the Istanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court (aka High Criminal Court) decided to discharge detainee lawyers. However, within 24 hours after the application of the decision, the prosecutor appealed against the decision and the court delegation was changed. The new delegation has ordered the previously detained lawyers to be arrested again. The lawyers were arrested again one day after being released.
According to the provisions of the criminal procedure, the 1st Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul is the authorized body to examine the objection; however, the 37 Heavy Penal Court embraced the objection of the prosecutor. Normally, the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court should not have worked on Saturdays because it was not court on duty, but the delegation gathered for the weekend and issued an arrest warrant. The lawyers were taken into custody on 15 September 2018 at 19.30 and re-arrested on 16 September 2018. Also, although the lawyers who had a warrant for their arrest had to appear before the court as soon as they had been detained, they were unlawfully kept under detention for a whole day.
The court dismissed the right to defence by removing the defence from the courtroom several times during the hearings. Although the court had decided on the extension of the inquiry, and granted an extension of time for the lawyers to make their statements against the witness statements, the file was sent to the prosecutor's office for consideration without seeing that time expire and the defendants demand. When the prosecutor in the court did not submit his opinions, the court's request for submission was renewed. When this request was not fulfilled by the prosecution office, a new prosecutor was appointed. Six months later, on 21 February 2019, the public prosecutor gave his opinion as to the accusations.
The court dismissed all requests by the defence. In the hearing held on 20 March 2019, the verdict of conviction was announced in the empty hall, where the defendants and their advocates were not present. The oral hearing and verbal self-defence, compulsory in the criminal proceedings, were ignored. As it is seen, the court violated many rights, in particular the principle of fair trial, by acting against the national and international legislation, especially the Code of Criminal Procedure while managing the hearing.
Being subject to investigation and prosecution because of their advocacy and human rights activities in Turkey and jailed pending trial, all lawyers must be released. As the HRA, we demand that the proceedings continue without detention. We call for the Ministry of Justice to fulfil its responsibility to end the attacks on the right to defence, and not to criminalize human rights struggle.
HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION (HRA)