​‘Political’ trial of 10 lawyers begins in Turkey

Topics: Civil liberties

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  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Ten members of the Istanbul Bar Association appeared in court yesterday facing jail sentences of up to four years following their appeal to the judiciary to guarantee the right to a fair trial in the country.

The European Bars Federation has condemned the trial, which comes against the background of government actions against lawyers, police and judges, as an attack on the principles of separation of powers and the rule of law.   

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Istanbul Bar Association president Umit Kocasakal and nine board members have been indicted on criminal charges of ‘attempts to influence the court’ by requesting it, orally and in writing, to conduct the trial of 350 defendants according to the country’s law.

Kocasakal said: ‘We did not commit any crime. Our trial is totally political and its aim is intimidation. It is the political power that initiated the proceedings against us and it is the political power that will make the judgment.’

The 350 defendants, whose trial opened in February 2010, stood accused of preparing a military coup as part of the so-called sledgehammer conspiracy.

The defendants included retired and active senior officers of the country’s armed forces, some of whom received 20-year prison sentences. However the defendants’ defence lawyers claimed that agents of the state had seized their mobile telephones, listened in on conversations with their clients and subjected them to constant harassment. 

When finally their clients were denied the right to plead, the defence lawyers refused to appear in court.

It was at this stage that the Istanbul Bar Association intervened and 10 of its members were indicted on the criminal charges. Their first appearance in court was scheduled for May last year and was to be witnessed by international observers before it was postponed, first to October and then to 7 January 2014.

The government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) is increasingly targeting lawyers, with the arrest of 15 human rights lawyers in January 2013 accused of ‘transferring instructions from organisation leaders in prison to militants [on the outside]’.

More than 50 lawyers were arrested in June 2013 after holding a protest in an Istanbul courthouse. 

Erdogan has now turned his attention to the police, with reports emerging from Turkey that police chiefs in at least 15 of the country’s 81 provinces have been dismissed for allegedly ‘seeking to undermine his government’. The government is also reported to have submitted a bill to parliament that would give it more influence over the appointment of judges and prosecutors.

Readers' comments (3)

  • And yet Package holidays to Turkey continue

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  • How great a jump is the above atrocious attack on the rule of law, from the UK threatening to repeal the Human Rights Act, the UK threatening to cease to cooperate with ECHR judgements or circumvent them, all against a constant chorus of officially-approved sneering at legal aid lawyers including one who attracted additional sneering and jeering for daring to have an expensive handbag ? (copyright yesterday`s Daily Mail). Shock Horror !
    Its happening here, folks ! Do not say you were not warned.

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  • "Lets kill all the lawyers!"

    Shakespeare's classic quote, but our legally illiterate Lord Chancellor should not forget, that the U.K Rule of Law has made us the envy of less happy lands, and his dismantling of our justice system degrades fundamental freedoms.

    This all may sound a little pompous, but lawyers abroad to seem to end up dead on an alarmingly regular basis!

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