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|IAPL Condemns Arrest of Kurdish and Turkish Lawyers|
02 December 2011
The International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), an organization of human rights lawyers committed to the protection and advancement of the basic rights of peoples throughout the world, condemns the arrest of Kurdish lawyers in Istanbul, Turkey.
On November 22, 2011, hundreds of policemen illegally searched the office of Asrın Hukuk Bürosu in Istanbul. Lawyers of imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan are affiliated with this office. Also in other Turkish cities, law offices were simultaneously raided. Following the raids, around 70 people, 47 of which are lawyers, were taken into custody. 33 of these are still being detained as of December 01, 2011. Furthermore, an unknown number of files were seized in spite of the objections of the lawyers present at the searches.
Police operations were reportedly carried in the context of the Kurdish Communities Union or KCK trial, a very controversial mass trial taking place in several cities concurrently since October 2010. Democratically elected mayors, city council members, and executive officers of local BDP (Party for Peace and Democracy) branches, as well as many people who have been openly promoting Kurdish cultural and political rights are among those arrested. They are accused of being members of an illegal organization, spreading terrorist propaganda and undermining the state’s unity.
The trial in Diyarbakir is especially controversial. It includes many elected local officials and 5 BDP candidates who were elected to the parliament in the last general elections in June 2011 but have not being able to represent their contingents at the parliament as they have been under arrest. Moreover, the defendants at the Diyarbakir KCK trial reclaim their right to defense in their mother tongue, Kurdish, which is denied by the court based on the argument that it is an “unknown” language.
IAPL has been actively monitoring the case from its start and is of the opinion that this trial is an attempt to suppress the legally organized political movement of the Kurdish people in Turkey through the judicial system. The latest searches and arrest of progressive lawyers took place immediately after statements of Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan, disclosing the name of the raided law office. Despite their duty of professional confidentiality, the Turkish police leaked (false) information to the right-wing press, resulting in biased propaganda and the criminalization of the lawyers.
The arrested lawyers are persecuted because of their professional duties and because of their identification with their clients. Merely by being the lawyers of suspects of terrorist actions, the prosecution claims that they have committed a criminal offense of terrorism themselves.
This is a deplorable violation of all Human Rights treaties, and of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which states that governments have to ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional duties without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference, and that they have to guarantee that lawyers are not suffering, or are threatened with persecution or other sanctions.
IAPL urges the Turkish government to release the arrested lawyers immediately and to guarantee a full and free exercise of their independent advocacy role. IAPL will continue to monitor the KCK trial closely.
International Association of People’s Lawyers