Two lawyers held under Turkey’s clampdown on the legal profession following last year’s attempted coup have received heavy prison sentences, campaigners have reported.
According to the website arrestedlawyers.org, Melih Dikayak a member of the Izmir Bar Association, was sentenced to seven and half years on a charge of being member of an armed terrorist organisation. Izmir High Penal Court found that he had downloaded an i-message app, Bylock, which encrypts communications.
Meanwhile Ersin Cosman, a member of Sivas Bar Association, was sentenced to six years and three months by Sivas High Penal Court, on a similar charge.
Since 15 July 2016, 102 lawyers in Izmir have been prosecutred. So far, three members (Feti Ün, Ali Aksoy, Melih Dikayak) of the Izmir Bar Association have been sentenced to terms ranging from three and 12 years.
Cosman’s sentencing brings to 10 the number of members of the Sivas Bar Association jailed, for terms ranging from three to nine years.
Several thousand members of the legal profession were rounded up following a failed military coup in 2016. International bar associations, including the Law Society, have raised concerns over the arrests. Tony Fisher, chair of the Society's human rights committee said that morethan 500 lawyers have been arrested since the attempted coup and more than 1,350 are subject to criminal prosecution.
'Lawyers who can still practise report difficulties accessing their clients: clients are incarcerated in remote prisons, time with their lawyer is restricted, lawyers may be left waiting for hours to see a client. Threats of violence, allegations of torture of clients in custody, and of arrested lawyers are routine,' Fisher said. 'The rule of law and the independence of the legal profession are essential foundations for political, social and economic stability. Lawyers and human rights defenders in Turkey need to be protected so that they can perform their professional duties without intimidation and improper interference.'
He added: 'The Law Society human rights committee will continue to support our colleagues working in such difficult conditions and do whatever it reasonably can to ensure their plight is investigated at all levels.'
US-based think tank Freedom House says that tens of thousands of Turkish citizens have been arbitrarily detained for their allegedly downloading encryption software.