Turkey: Lawyer Prosecuted for Song

It is really difficult to keep track of the number of human rights defenders, trade unionists, lawyers and others who are on trial. Virtually every single person I have met during these five days have charges pending against them.

Just to give a figure, which is a very small fraction of the overall number, a trade union confederation I met today has 67 members currently in detention awaiting trial. Some of them have not even been formally charged yet.

I attended one of these trials yesterday. Four human rights lawyers are accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation. They are an exception somehow, as they were released on bail – most of the other HRDs accused of similar charges remain in detention for months or years.

Upon entering the court room, I was struck by room layout: the public prosecutor sits together with the judges, at the same high table, and wear the very same gown (while lawyers wear a different one). One may wonder how truly independent such a court can be. Would the judges say that a case brought by their colleague is rubbish? Yet it is rubbish.

Hearing the proceedings, it is difficult to believe how such a case could ever be brought in a country that portrays itself as democratic. The accusation against the four human rights defenders are very serious. The prosecution file however is entirely based on things such as participating to a demonstration or making calls to their clients.

The logic is the following: you participated in a pro-Kurdish demonstration; PKK/KCK is pro-Kurdish; therefore you must be a member of PKK/KCK. Another piece of evidence was that one of the accused lawyers had a song in its laptop with lyrics that would express support for the Kurdish cause. How can this prove membership of a terrorist organisation? What's more, the HRD was the defense lawyer of the musician in question, and the song was part of the court file! Kafka comes to mind. But as he teaches us, this farce may well end with a prison sentence.

Andrea Rocca, Head of Protection.