International call for lawyers’ release

International call for lawyers’ release

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
International call for lawyers’ release

BDP members protest arrests in the investigation into the Kurdish Communities Union.

Six international organizations have sent a letter to President Abdullah Gül and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin to protest the arrest of lawyers in Turkey.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), the Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA-International Association of Lawyers), the Conférence internationale des barreaux (CIB), Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and the International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Front Line) expressed their “deepest concern about the frequent use of arbitrary detention and judicial harassment against a significant number of lawyers for merely defending their clients’ rights in politically sensitive cases,” in a letter addressed to Gül and Engin.

The appeal referred to the recent arrests of 39 lawyers and one legal worker in the scope of an operation against the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Since 2009, about 700 people have been arrested over their alleged links to the KCK, according to government figures, although the BDP puts the figure at more than 3,500.

Five parliamentarians and two prominent intellectuals, publisher Ragıp Zarakolu and academic Büşra Ersanlı, are in custody on similar charges.

All the suspects mentioned in the letter are either current or former lawyers of Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned PKK leader serving a life sentence on İmralı Island.

“Our organizations deplore that cases of judicial harassment against lawyers for exercising their mission to provide a defense are not new and that, worse, they are becoming frequent,” read the letter. “These arrests are contrary to human rights standards which bind Turkey. Furthermore, these arrests contravene the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers” [Havana Rules] as adopted at the United Nations in Havana, Cuba in 1990.”

The organizations voiced their concern that lawyers in Turkey were being prosecuted under the terrorism law.

The letter called on Gül and Ergin “to ensure that lawyers in the Republic of Turkey do not face any act of harassment.”