On 5 April, the Day of the Lawyer in Turkey, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers stood in solidarity with imprisoned colleagues in Turkey. Only a short time before, on 22 March, 18 lawyers of the CHD (Contemporary Law Association) were sentenced to a collective 160 years in prison, including Selçuk Kozağaçlı, a member of the IADL Bureau. Selcuk was sentenced to 10 years and 15 months in prison for his legal work and advocacy to defend workers, teachers, human rights defenders and social justice advocates, alongside his fellow progressive Turkish lawyers.

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The case itself has dragged on for years and is riddled with numerous procedural and substantive irregularities, from the replacement of the judge on the case to the introduction of evidence hidden from the defense. It is clear that the trial of these lawyers, like other prosecutions of academics, journalists and opposition figures in Turkey, is a political procedure that aims to criminalize legal work on behalf of social movements.

IADL and COLAP executives Niloufer Bhagwat, Hasan Tarique Chowdhury, Le Minh Tam, Jeanne Mirer, Jun Sasamoto

At the IADL Bureau and COLAP (Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific) Executive meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, members held signs with the names of the 18 imprisoned lawyers. Jeanne Mirer, President of the IADL, read out a letter addressed to the Minister of Justice and the Council of Judges and Prosecutors in Turkey. The letter (below, in full) notes that the jailed lawyers “were convicted of allegedly being members of a terrorist organization. The convictions were based on secret, false and misleading evidence such that the defendants were denied basic due process. The tribunal was not fair and impartial as required by law.”

IADL and COLAP members show solidarity with imprisoned Turkish lawyers from Kuala Lumpur.

The 18 lawyers received very high sentences, as follows:

  • 18 years 9 months of imprisonment for Atty. Barkın Timtik
  • 13 years 6 months of imprisonment for Atty. Özgür Yılmaz
  • 13 years 6 months of imprisonment for Atty. Ebru Timtik
  • 12 years of imprisonment for Atty. Behiç Aşcı
  • 12 years of imprisonment for Atty. Şükriye Erden
  • 10 years 15 months of imprisonment for Atty. Selçuk Kozağaçlı
  • 10 years 6 months of imprisonment for Atty. Engin Gökoğlu
  • 10 years 6 months of imprisonment for Atty. Aytaç Ünsal
  • 10 years 6 months of imprisonment for Atty. Süleyman Gökten
  • 9 years of imprisonment for Atty. Aycan Çiçek
  • 9 years of imprisonment for Atty. Naciye Demir
  • 7 years 12 months of imprisonment for Atty. Ezgi Çakır
  • 3 years 9 months of imprisonment for Atty. Yağmur Ereren
  • 3 years 9 months of imprisonment for Atty. Yaprak Türkmen
  • 3 years 9 months of imprisonment for Atty. Didem Baydar Ünsal
  • 3 years 9 months of imprisonment for Atty. Ayşegül Çağatay
  • 2 years 13 months of imprisonment for Atty. Zehra Özdemir
  • 2 years 13 months of imprisonment for Atty. Ahmet Mandacı

The letter concludes: “These lawyers in fact were targeted for their own political beliefs and the political beliefs of clients they represented.   Their charges were in blatant violation of their rights under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which protect freedom of opinion, and due process.  Turkey has ratified this Covenant and is required to follow its provisions.   We also believe the attacks on these lawyers violates the UN Principles on the Role of Lawyers which are enshrined in many international treaties.

“IADL believes the Government of Turkey must overturn these convictions and free these lawyers.  The international community of lawyers is watching what Turkey does.”

Download the letter.