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14 lawyers arrested and charged

Status: 
Arrested
About the situation

Between 15 and 17 September 2018, six lawyers from People’s Law Office were re-arrested following a decision by Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court. On 14 September, after a full week of hearings, the Court ordered the release of all 17 detained lawyers from People’s Law Office, who had been in detention since 2017. They were released the following morning. The Court then ordered the re-arrest of 12 lawyers less than 24 hours after its previous decision, after the prosecutor had contested the Court’s decision.

About People's Law Office

halkin_hukuk.jpegDidem Baydar, Şükriye Erden, Ayşegül Çağatay, Ebru Timtik, Aytaç Ünsal, Zehra Özdemir, Yağmur Ereren, Engin Gökoğlu, Süleyman Gökten, Aycan Çiçek, Naciye Demir, Behiç Aşçı, Barkın Timtik and Özgür Yılmaz are human rights defenders and lawyers belonging to the People’s Law Office in Turkey. They are well known due to their work on high profile cases such as that of 15- year old Berkin Elvan, who died during the Gezi Park protests after being hit on the head by a tear-gas canister fired by a police officer, and  Dilek Doğan, a young woman who was shot and killed by a police officer during an anti-terror raid on her house on 18 October 2015.  They also represent Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, two educators dismissed from their positions following the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016.  The detention of the 14 human rights defenders from the People’s Law Office occurred two days before the educators’ trial was due to begin on 14 September 2017.

18 September 2018
People’s Law Office lawyers re-arrested

Between 15 and 17 September 2018, six lawyers from People’s Law Office were re-arrested following a decision by Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court. On 14 September, after a full week of hearings, the Court ordered the release of all 17 detained lawyers from People’s Law Office, who had been in detention since 2017. They were released the following morning. The Court then ordered the re-arrest of 12 lawyers less than 24 hours after its previous decision, after the prosecutor had contested the Court’s decision. The Court confirmed the release of the remaining five lawyers, namely Yaprak Türkmen, Yağmur Ereren Evin, Didem Baydar Ünsal, Ayşegül Çağatay and Zehra Özdemir.

Between September and December 2017, 17 human rights lawyers from the People’s Law Office were arrested following orders from the Istanbul Criminal Peace Judge. A total of 20 lawyers from People’s Law Office faced charges and 17 of them were kept in pre-trial detention in seven different prisons, far from their families and their places of residence. 17 lawyers were accused of transmitting instructions from the DHKP-C’s (the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party) executive team to its members, while three of them were charged with “being managers of an armed terrorist organisation”. The Turkish government considers the DHKP-C a terrorist organisation.

On 10 September 2018, the hearing for the People’s Law Office case began, and the lawyers facing charges were heard before the Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court over the week. On 14 September, the Court ordered the release of all 17 of the detained lawyers, and they were released early the following morning. After the prosecutor contested the decision, the Court reconsidered and ordered the re-arrest of 12 of the recently released lawyers on the same charges.

Five of them, namely Engin Gökoğlu, Aycan Çelik, Aytaç Ünsal, Behiç Aşçı and Ahmet Mandacı, were detained on the same day. On 16 September, they were brought to the Istanbul Courthouse to give their statements on the arrest order and were arrested following the hearing. During the hearing, approximately 20 police officers from the anti-terror branch were present in the court room. The lawyers’ request to remove the police officers from the court room was denied. The police officers in question had conducted the investigation against the lawyers and were involved in reported ill-treatment of the lawyers.

Selçuk Kozaçağlı, one of the lawyers ordered to be re-arrested, was detained on 16 September and brought to the Istanbul Courthouse on 17 September to give his statement. He was heard by a different judge than the chief justice who is in charge of the case and had previously ordered their release. After a 10 minute long hearing, Selçuk Kozağaçlı was arrested. To date, six lawyers from the People’s Law Office have been re-arrested, and the re-arrest orders for six other lawyers are still pending.

7 September 2018
Detained lawyers to attend hearings scheduled between 10 and 14 September

On 5 September 2018, Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court ruled to allow all detained lawyers from the People’s Law Office to attend their hearings in person between 10 and 14 September 2018. The Court’s ruling followed the detained lawyers’ starting of a hunger strike on 3 September in protest against the Court’s initial decision to hear the majority of the lawyers through video call.

Between September and December 2017, 17 human rights lawyers from the People’s Law Office were arrested following orders from the Istanbul Criminal Peace Judge. 17 of the 20 lawyers facing charges remain in pre-trial detention in seven different prisons, far from their families and their places of residence. 17 lawyers were accused of transmitting instructions from the DHKP-C’s executive team to its members, while three of them were charged with “being managers of an armed terrorist organisation”. The DHKP-C (the revolutionary people’s liberation party) is considered as a terrorist organisation in Turkey.

After the defenders had spent up to a year in detention, Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court had stated that it would hear the majority of the detained lawyers through video call. Only Yaprak Türkmen and Selçuk Kozağaçlı, who have been detained in İstanbul Silivri Prison since their arrest, were to be personally brought to the courtroom for the hearings. The detained lawyers refused to participate in the hearings through video call, and appealed the Court’s decision. However, the Court refused their appeal to be heard in person on such grounds as travel costs, the length of the journeys and security concerns during travel from different prisons to the courtroom. On 3 September 2018, detained lawyers of People’s Law Office began a hunger strike in protest against the Court’s decision, and two days after, on 5 September, the Court ruled to hear all the detained lawyers personally during the hearings. The hearings are due to begin at 10 a.m. on 10 September 2018 at Bakırköy Courthouse, and are scheduled to conclude on 14 September.

One of the charged lawyers, who is not in detention, stated in an interview with the online newspaper Bianet that the Court’s original decision would have violated the right to fair trial because the detained lawyers would not have the possibility to directly examine the evidence brought against them and consult with their lawyers during the hearings. She underlined that the video call system isolates suspects from the proceedings, that suspects can only see the courtroom during their testimony, and that courts continue hearings in many cases even if the suspect is unable to hear or see anything due to connection issues.

29 June 2018
Hearings scheduled for September

On 11 April 2018, Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment against 20 lawyers from the People’s Law Office. The indictment claims that the People’s Law Office is a sub-structure of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party (DHKP-C), which has been designated a terrorist organization in Turkey. The hearings have been scheduled for between 10 and 15 September 2018.

Between September and December 2017, 17 human rights lawyers from the People’s Law Office were arrested following orders from the Istanbul Peace Criminal Judge. Selçuk Kozağaçlı, Ebru Timtik, Didem Baydar Ünsal, Ahmet Mandacı, Aycan Çiçek, Ayşegül Çağatay, Aytaç Ünsal, Behiç Aşçı, Engin Gökoğlu, Ezgi Çakır, Günay Dağ, Naciye Demir, Süleyman Gökten, Şükriye Erden, Yağmur Erener Evin, Yaprak Türkmen and Zehra Özdemir were accused of transmitting instructions from the DHKP-C’s executive team to its members, while Oya Aslan, Barkın Timtik and Özgür Yılmaz, were charged with “being managers of an armed terrorist organization”. 17 of the 20 lawyers facing charges remain in pre-trial detention in a number of different prisons, far from their families and their places of residence.

Since September 2017, People’s Law Office has been raided by the police three times, on 12 September 2017, 18 December 2017 and 20 April 2018. A lawyer from the People’s Law Office stated that on 20 April 2018 the police entered into all 11 flats in the same building which did not belong to People’s Law Office and broke some of their neighbors’ doors.

Following almost a year of detention, the court will hear the majority of the detained lawyers through video call. Only Yaprak Türkmen and Selçuk Kozağaçlı, who have been detained in İstanbul Silivri Prison, will be personally brought to the court room for the hearings. One of the detained lawyers, Ahmet Mandacı, criticized in a letter to the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet that they would be questioned by video call rather than appearing before the judge. He further stated that he was not notified about the indictment although other lawyers in detention had been. On 20 September 2017, Ahmet Mandacı had been released under judicial control, but 10 days later he was arrested at the request of the Prosecutor’s Office.

A trainee lawyer who was arrested with the lawyers from the People’s Law Office, also sent a letter to Cumhuriyet and stated that the prison administration had banned him from any visitors for 100 months as he was protesting he and his fellow lawyers’ isolation. He also stated that he wrote several petitions to the Ministry of Justice, administration of Silivri Prison, Prosecutor’s Office and several courts to contest the solitary confinement of Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Yaprak Türkmen but the authorities responded that it was not under their authority. He further stated that while he had written letters to Selçuk Kozağaçlı the letters had not been given to him. Selçuk Kozağaçlı and Yaprak Türkmen have been kept in solitary confinement in İstanbul Silivri Prison since their arrest in September 2017.

30 March 2018
Indictment against lawyers from the People’s Law Office complete

On 27 March 2018, the indictment against the twenty lawyers arrested on  from the People’s Law Office was completed by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office’s Terror and Organised Crime Investigation Bureau Prosecution Office and sent to Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court.

The indictment claims that the People’s Law Office is a sub-structure of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party (DHKP-C), which is considered a terrorist organisation in Turkey. The indictment further claims that the People’s Law Office was established on the back of instructions from the senior executive board of the DHKP-C, known as the Central Committee.

The lawyers Selçuk Kozağaçlı, Ebru Timtik, Didem Baydar Ünsal, Ahmet Mandacı, Aycan Çiçek, Ayşegül Çağatay, Aytaç Ünsal, Behiç Aşçı, Engin Gökoğlu, Ezgi Çakır, Günay Dağ, Naciye Demir, Süleyman Gökten, Şükriye Erden, Yağmur Erener Evin, Yaprak Türkmen and Zehra Özdemir are accused of transmitting instructions from the DHKP-C’s executive team to its members, who are in detention, convicted, or active from outside.

For these reasons they were charged with “being members of a terrorist organisation”. The other lawyers, Oya Aslan, Barkın Timtik and Özgür Yılmaz, were charged with “being managers of an armed terrorist organization”.

Between September and December 2017, a number of human rights lawyers from the People’s Law Office were arrested following orders from the Istanbul Peace Criminal Judge. They have been accused of having ties to the DHKP-C. They are being detained separately in a number of different prisons, far from their families and their places of residence.

6 March 2018
Ongoing ill-treatment of arrested lawyers from the People’s Law Office

On 26 February 2018, the People’s Law Office reported that one of its arrested lawyers, Süleyman Gökten, was beaten by guards in Tekirdağ No 1. T Type Prison.

On 26 February 2018, as many as 50 guards reportedly entered the cell where the lawyer is being held along with other detainees and proceeded to beat him and his fellow inmates.

A lawyer from the People’s Law Office who visited Süleyman Gökten and the other injured inmates reported that the cells are in an extremely poor condition and that they are dirty and neglected.

As further illustration of the poor conditions for detained lawyers of the People’s Law Office, on 2 March 2018, another arrested lawyer, Ayçan Çiçek, who is being held in Düzce T Type Prison, sent a letter to Cumhuriyet newspaper reporting that the conditions of detention were extremely poor. When she was brought to the cell along with a People’s Law Office colleague, Ayşegül Çağatay, the prison authorities did not provide necessary commodities like water, a table and chairs, spoons, forks or even beds. After the detained lawyers complained about the conditions, they received some equipment in order to clean the cell. Lawyers Yaprak Türkmen and lawyer Selçuk Kozağaçlı remain in solitary confinement.

The People’s Law Office further reported that prison authorities continue to impose arbitrary disciplinary measures on the detained lawyers, such as prohibitions on visits and books.

Between September and December 2017, a number of human rights lawyers from the People’s Law Office were arrested following orders from the Istanbul Peace Criminal Judge. They have been accused of having ties to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party (DHKP-C), which is a designated terrorist organisation in Turkey. They are being detained separately in a number of different prisons, far from their families and places of residence.

4 December 2017
Family member of People’s Law Office lawyers detained

On 29 November 2017, the aunt of detained human rights lawyers Ebru Timtik and Barkın Timtik, Sultan Kaya, was detained for a number of hours and accused of “terrorist propaganda”, although no formal charges have been brought. Earlier that day she staged a sit-in protest in front of Istanbul Çağlayan Justice Palace with a banner reading “Release my children Ebru and Barkın Timtik. Freedom to lawyers” and was taken into police custody. Sultan Kaya was one of a number of family members of detained human rights defenders and lawyers from the People’s Law Office who submitted a petition to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office asking for the indictment of the members of the People’s Law Office and for an immediate court hearing.

On 20 September 2017, 14 lawyers from the People’s Law Office Didem Baydar, Şükriye Erden, Ayşegül Çağatay, Ebru Timtik, Aytaç Ünsal, Zehra Özdemir, Yağmur Ereren, Engin Gökoğlu, Süleyman Gökten, Aycan Çiçek, Naciye Demir, Behiç Aşçı, Barkın Timtik and Özgür Yılmaz were accused of having ties to the DHKP-C, a recognised terrorist organisation in Turkey, after having been taken into police custody on 12 September 2017. Lawyer Ahmet Mandacı who was taken into police custody and then released was detained again on 30 September 2017.

The detained lawyers from People’s Law Office are well known due to their work on high profile cases such as that of 15-year old Berkin Elvan, who died during the Gezi Park protests after being hit on the head by a tear-gas canister fired by a police officer, and Dilek Doğan, a young woman who was shot and killed by a police officer during an anti-terror raid on her house on 18 October 2015. They also represent Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, two educators dismissed from their positions following the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016.

On 3 November 2017, the People’s Law Office reported that one of their detained lawyers, Engin Gökoğlu, required surgery after having been beaten and subjected to torture by prison officers in Tekirdag No. 2 T-type Prison. He is currently being kept in a cell in the prison awaiting surgery and has not been given access to any of his personal effects.

On 6 November 2017, the organisation reported the unjust treatment of a number of its imprisoned lawyers. The petitions and requests of the human rights defenders are not being responded to, nor are they being sent to the relevant authorities by prison administrations. They are subject to a number of other restrictions, including limits on the number of books they can keep and prohibitions on certain political magazines. The cases against all 14 lawyers remain confidential and no information has been given by authorities regarding the investigation. Lawyer Ahmet Mandacı and his colleague Özgür Yılmaz have been kept in solitary confinement since the beginning of their detention.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continuing harassment and imprisonment of human rights defenders in Turkey as a result of their peaceful work in defence of the rights of others.
 

6 November 2017
Unjust treatment of imprisoned lawyers from the People’s Law Office

On 6 November 2017, the People’s Law Office reported that petitions from their imprisoned colleagues were being treated arbitrarily and in an unjust manner. According to the organisation, the petitions and requests of the human rights defenders are not being responded to, nor are they being sent to the relevant authorities by prison administrations. In Bolu T-Type Prison, Barkın Timtik, one of the 14 lawyers detained, lodged a petition objecting against a one month visitation ban, however it is reported that this petition never reached the relevant authorities. His sentence was thus finalised on the grounds that he had not objected. Barkın Timtik and his two colleagues detained in Bolu T-Type Prison are subjected to a number of other restrictions, including limits on the number of books they can keep and prohibitions on certain political magazines. The cases against all 14 lawyers remain confidential and no information has been given by authorities regarding the investigation or charges against them.

Lawyer Ahmet Mandacı from People’s Law Office, who was detained on 30 September 2017, and his colleague Özgür Yılmaz, detained ten days earlier, have been kept in solitary confinement since the beginning of their detention.

On 20 September 2017, 14 human rights lawyers from the People’s Law Office were arrested following orders from the Istanbul Peace Criminal Judge. They have been accused of having ties to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party (DHKP-C), recognised as a terorrist organisation in Turkey. They are being detained separately in a number of different prisons, far from their families and places of residence.

Currently Behiç Aşçı and Aytaç Ünsal are detained in Burhaniye T-Type Prison, Sükriye Erden and Didem Ünsal are detained in Karabük T-Type Prison, Naciye Demir, Barkın Timtik and Zehra Özdemir are in Bolu T-Type Prison, Yağmur Evin and Ebru Timtik are held in Balıkesir T-Type Prison, Ayşegül Çağatay and Aycan Çiçek are in Düzce T-Type Prison, Özgür Yılmaz and Ahmet Mandacı in Edirne F-Type Prison, Süleyman Gökten in Tekirdağ No. 1 Prison and Engin Gökoğlu is detained in Tekirdag No.2 Prison.

27 September 2017
14 lawyers from People's Law Office arrested and charged

On 20 September 2017, 14 lawyers were charged with “being members of a terrorist organisation” by the Istanbul Criminal Judgeship of Peace. They were detained and taken into police custody on 12 September 2017.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)

Didem Baydar, Şükriye Erden, Ayşegül Çağatay, Ebru Timtik, Aytaç Ünsal, Zehra Özdemir, Yağmur Ereren, Engin Gökoğlu, Süleyman Gökten, Aycan Çiçek, Naciye Demir, Behiç Aşçı, Barkın Timtik and Özgür Yılmaz are human rights defenders and lawyers belonging to the People’s Law Office in Turkey. They are well known due to their work on high profile cases such as that of 15- year old Berkin Elvan, who died during the Gezi Park protests after being hit on the head by a tear-gas canister fired by a police officer, and  Dilek Doğan, a young woman who was shot and killed by a police officer during an anti-terror raid on her house on 18 October 2015.  They also represent Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, two educators dismissed from their positions following the failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016.  The detention of the 14 human rights defenders from the People’s Law Office occurred two days before the educators’ trial was due to begin on 14 September 2017.

On 11-12 September 2017, around midnight, Turkish police raided the offices of People's Law Office in Istanbul and Ankara as well as the lawyers' houses. The 14 human rights defenders were detained following a warrant issued by the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office accusing them of “being members of a terrorist organisation”. On 20 September 2017, the human rights defenders were taken to the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul courthouse where their testimonies were taken. Ahmet Mandacı and Ezgi Gökten were then released under judicial control as they had no formal ties to the People’s Law Office, while all others were arrested. The lawyers are accused of having ties to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party (DHKP-C) which is recognised as a terrorist organisation in Turkey.

The HRDs were separated and sent to different prisons following their arrest. Behiç Aşçı and Aytaç Ünsal are detained in Burhaniye T Type Prison; Sükriye Erden and Didem Ünsal are detained in Karabük T Type Prison; Naciye Demir, Barkın Timtik and Zehra Özdemir are held in Bolu T Type Prison; Yağmur Evin and Ebru Timtik are held in Balıkesir T Type Prison; Ayşegül Çağatay and Aycan Çiçek are in Düzce T Type Prison, Özgür Yılmaz is in Edirne T Type Prison, Süleyman Gökten is in Tekirdağ No. 1 Prison and Engin Gökoğlu is detained in Tekirdag No.2 Prison.

Under the State of Emergency currently imposed in Turkey, over 140,000 civil servants have lost their jobs following governmental decrees. Many people including human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, academics and intellectuals have been detained and accused of ties with terrorist groups.

Front Line Defenders is concerned about the charges against the 14 lawyers and human rights defenders affiliated with the People's Law Office, as it believes that they have been detained in relation to their peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of human rights in Turkey.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Turkey to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release the lawyers, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being held solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;

2. Immediately drop all charges against the lawyers, as it is believed that they are solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;

3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of the lawyers;

4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.