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Turkey
17.09.21
Urgent Interventions

Turkey: Attacks against Diyarbakır Bar Association members in courtroom

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY


TUR 006 / 0921 / OBS 097
Physical and verbal attack /
Obstacle to the independence of judges and lawyers /
Obstacles to fair trial /
Excessive use of force
Turkey
September 17, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received information and requests your intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the physical and verbal attacks against Diyarbakır Bar Association board members and human rights lawyers in courtroom by police officers and a court president.

On September 13, 2021, during the hearing of a case before the Diyarbakır 9 High Criminal Court, human rights lawyer Lütfiye Berfin Gökkan, representing Free Women's Movement (Tevgera Jinên Azad-TJA) Term Spokesperson Ayşe Gökkan[1], intervened to request the court to grant extra time to her client to prepare her detailed defense, as the court president had misunderstood Ayşe Gökkan’s defense, which took place in Kurdish. The court president yelled at the lawyer, saying “I didn’t let you speak, sit down, you’re stepping out of the line, I know what to do, I told you sit down, you know this case is horrible, there are three separate crimes of membership and propaganda, this is an extremely heavy case, let me do my job…”, banged his hand on the stand and said “I’ll throw all of you out of the courtroom”.

The president then removed only the defense lawyers to decide on the request for extra time. As witnessed by other lawyers and the defendants’ relatives present in the courtroom at the time, the president denied the request without consulting other members of the court, and told the defendant “look at how your lawyers are sabotaging your defense”. Later, the president told the court officer to call for female police officers, saying “I will throw all of these lawyers out of the courtroom”. Approximately 10 police officers then entered the courtroom, and the president of the court told them “if even one defense lawyer tries to speak without me letting them you will throw them out of the courtroom. Use force, grab them and throw them out… To be more precise, I will first warn the lawyers, if they remain in the courtroom despite my warning then you will grab them and throw them out”.

Defense lawyers were then admitted back to the courtroom and the statement taking of the defendant continued. Shortly after, Diyarbakır Bar Association president Nahit Eren, board member Mehdi Özdemir, and other board members entered the courtroom to observe the hearing. In the meantime, just as lawyer Özüm Vurgun stood up to leave the courtroom to get water for her client and the translator, the court president yelled at her “where are you going, you can’t leave without asking me, sit down”. Following this, the Bar Association president Nahit Eren stood up and introduced himself, and asked to make a statement, which the court granted him. Eren said “I didn’t ask to speak earlier not to disrupt the courtroom order, but I felt the need to speak after you unfairly intervened with our colleague once again. We would like to remind you that defense is fundamental for the trial and we do not accept your unjust attitude towards our colleagues. Not now, neither in the beginning of the hearing.” Upon the court president questioning how Eren knew what happened in the beginning of the hearing, Eren replied that other board members had been present observing the hearing and informed him of what happened.

As Eren tried to speak, the court president yelled “throw him out”. Lawyers objected that it is unlawful for lawyers to be removed from the courtroom, but the court president repeated “throw everyone out”. Police officers in the courtroom then tried to remove everyone from the courtroom, including lawyers, by using force. The police continued to attack despite a relative of the defendant in the courtroom passing out and collapsing because of it.

Meanwhile, police officers grabbed and dragged Bar Association board member Mehdi Özdemir by his right arm, and tried to detain him outside of the courtroom. Nahit Eren witnessed this and told the police officers that Özdemir was a board member. However the police officer also pushed Nahit Eren and insulted them by saying “you are impertinent, dishonorable”. Bar Association board member Seyit Rıza Karakaş was punched in the chest by a police officer. Lawyers Çiğdem Sevimli, Serdar Özer, Gözde Engin and Muhammed Tapancı were also pushed around and assaulted in the entrance of the courtroom.

Lawyers also noticed that a relative of the defendant was unjustly detained by the police and told the police to release him. Another police officer yelled “don’t let anyone go, grab them” to officers present. Nahit Eren and Bar Association board member Öykü Çakmak were then pushed around and assaulted by the police for asking why they were holding the defendant’s relative.

On September 14, 2021, the lawyers who were subjected to this attack, including president and members of the Bar Association board, filed a criminal complaint with the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on grounds of "insulting a public officer" and "misuse of public duty by following an unlawful order". At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, there are no developments to this complaint.

The Observatory condemns the physical and verbal attacks against human rights lawyers, including Diyarbakır Bar Association board members, as they constitute a clear obstacle to the independence of the judges and lawyers and to the right to a fair trial, and urges the authorities of Turkey to carry out an independent, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation on the acts of president of the Diyarbakir 9 High Criminal Court and police officers involved in the attacks.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Turkey asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Diyarbakır Bar Association board members and human rights lawyers, as well as of all human rights defenders in Turkey;

ii. Carry out an independent, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned attacks and sanction those responsible in accordance with the law;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the right to a fair trial and the independence of judges and lawyers.

Addresses:

• President of the Republic of Turkey, Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Email: contact@tccb.gov.tr
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Abdülhamit Gül. Email: info@adalet.gov.tr.
• Minister of Interior, Mr. Süleyman Soylu. Email: diab@icisleri.gov.tr; sti@icisleri.gov.tr
• Ambassador Mehmet Kemal Bozay, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Email: info@turkdeleg.org; tr-delegation.eu@mfa.gov.tr
• Ambassador Mr. Sadık Arslan, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Email: turkey.unog@mfa.gov.tr

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Turkey in your respective country.

***
Paris-Geneva, September 17, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
• E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel FIDH + 33 1 43 55 25 18
• Tel OMCT + 41 22 809 49 39


[1] Free Women's Movement (Tevgera Jinên Azad-TJA) Term Spokesperson Ayşe Gökkan stands trial on charges of "leading a terrorist organisation" and "being a member of a terrorist organisation" before the Diyarbakır 9. High Criminal Court. She has been in pre-trial detention since January 28, 2021. The court previously denied Gökkan’s request to present her defense in Kurdish.

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