Lawyers latest targets of Turkey’s fight against terror
ISTANBUL (AFP) – With the latest wave of arrests, the number of lawyers behind bars in Turkey has reached 45, hitting those defending Kurds and far-left activists hard, and even emptying the offices of some law firms.
At other law practices, inexperienced lawyers fresh out of law school have been obliged to step up to replace their more experienced colleagues languishing in jail. It is enough!” Umit Kocasakal, chairman of Istanbul bar told hundreds of lawyers, cheering his call to resistance.
“These attacks targeting the rights to defence and lawyers in a systematic and deliberate manner have reached a dimension that is not bearable,” he said.
Earlier this month, nine of their colleagues were detained for “membership in a terrorist organisation” – the banned Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front (DHKP-C). The lawyers concerned were defending several alleged members of the organisation.
They had also defended victims of prison and police violence such as Engin Ceber, a left-wing activist who died in prison in 2008 following torture; and Festus Okey, a Nigerian illegal immigrant who died in a police station in 2007.
“These lawyers have done incredible work on some human rights cases,” Emma Sinclair-Webb of the Human Rights Watch said. “No one else would have taken care of these cases. What attention would such cases get if they had not been there?”
The nine lawyers have joined 36 of their colleagues in detention, 33 of whom are being held over suspected links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).