The Turkish government has prosecuted 1,539 lawyers, arrested 580 and sentenced 103 lawyers to long prison terms since the July 15, 2016 failed coup, according to a report released by The Arrested Lawyers Initiative on Tuesday.
The report, titled “Incarceration of Turkish Lawyers: En Masse Arrests and Convictions (2016-2018),” has revealed that all persecuted lawyers are being charged with terror-linked offences. The main two accusations directed against them have been membership to an armed terrorist organization, and forming and leading an armed terrorist organization.
Stating that Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) criminalizes the establishing and commanding of (Article 314/1), as well as membership in (Article 314/2) an armed organization, the report underlined that the TCK requires 7.5 to 22.5 years of imprisonment for those who allegedly committed either of these two offences.
“The TCK does not contain a definition of an armed organization or an armed group,” the report said, and added that “The lack of legal definitions and criteria of the armed terrorist organization and the crime of membership in the armed terrorist organization make them prone to arbitrary application. Vague formulation of the criminal provisions on the security of the state and terrorism and their overly broad interpretation by the Turkish judges and prosecutors make all lawyers and other human rights defenders a prospective victim of judicial harassment.”
The report continued to underline that “[this] blurred area under the TCK is actively used by the Turkish government to investigate, prosecute and convict opponents. As it has become a common practice in after July 15, 2016 coup attempt, 402,000 people have been investigated, prosecuted and/or convicted for alleged terrorism offences stipulated in article 314 of TCK.”
Stating that the lawyers have particularly been targeted due to the identity or affinity of their clients, the report reminded that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reports that the OHCHR has “observed a pattern of persecution of lawyers representing individuals accused of terrorism offences, where they are associated with their clients political views (or alleged political views) in the discharge of their professional duties and are consequently prosecuted for the same or other related offences of which their clients are being accused.”
“The efforts and cooperation of the international organizations paramount in exerting pressure on Turkey to respect universal human rights and to bring its criminal law in line with the standards specified by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and acceptable to the European Commission and the European Union,” said the report.
It also added that the unified efforts of bar associations and other legal organizations in European countries are absolutely crucial for making the Turkish authorities stop criminalizing Turkish lawyers.
“Arrested lawyers and human rights defenders who have to suffer inhumane treatment at the hands of Turkish officials desperately need such action coming from European organizations. Any effort in support of arrested lawyers, human rights defenders and other victims of the Turkish government’s unlawful actions is highly appreciated,” read the report.