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Lawyer Yaprak Türkmen Arrested

Status: 
Released
About the situation

On 20 December 2017, lawyer Yaprak Türkmen from the People’s Law Office was arrested after being detained during a raid on the office by Turkish Anti-Terror police on 18 December 2017.

About Yaprak Türkmen

yaprak_turkmen.jpegYaprak Türkmen is a human rights lawyer from the People’s Law Office, an organisation which represents victims of human rights violations which have been carried out by state officials.

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.

21 December 2017
Lawyer Yaprak Türkmen Arrested

On 20 December 2017, lawyer Yaprak Türkmen from the People’s Law Office was arrested after being detained during a raid on the office by Turkish Anti-Terror police on 18 December 2017.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)
 

On 18 December 2017, Yaprak Türkmen was taken into custody in connection with a pre-existing case against a number of lawyers from the People’s Law Office who stand accused of “membership of a terrorist organisation”, namely the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party (DHKP-C), a recognised terrorist organisation in Turkey. On 20 December 2017, she was brought to the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office to give her testimony, but instead of being made to do so, she was sent to the Istanbul 12nd Criminal Judgeship of Peace. After an interrogation by the Judge, she was falsely accused of “membership of an armed terrorist organisation” (the DHKP-C) and was arrested.

This is not the first time that human rights lawyers have been targeted for the legitimate exercise of their profession under the State of Emergency currently imposed in Turkey. Recently, a number of human rights lawyers have been detained and accused of ties with terrorist groups, in what is believed to be an attempt to stifle the peaceful exercise of their profession.

Front Line Defenders is concerned by the arrest of Yaprak Türkmen along with the charges against her as it is believed that they are solely due to her peaceful and legitimate work as a human rights lawyer.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Turkey:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release, and drop all charges against, Yaprak Türkmen, as Front Line Defenders believes that she is being held solely as a result of her legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;

2. Ensure that the treatment of Yaprak Türkmen, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;

3. 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.