British lawyers association says 216 lawyers jailed in Turkey

Turkish authorities have prosecuted more than 1,500 lawyers and imprisoned 216 of them with prison terms of up to 11 years since a failed coup in 2016, the Law Society, a Britain-based association of lawyers, said on Friday.

Lawyers in Turkey have suffered harassment, had evidence statements disregarded, been denied privileged access to clients, and had telephone calls and emails intercepted, the Law Society Gazette said.

In an event hosted by the association on Thursday, on the Day of the Endangered Lawyers, successive speakers said the only crime of Turkish lawyers had been to perform their professional duty to defend clients.

During his speech at the meeting, the Law Society's deputy vice president, David Greene, said the situation in Turkey was untenable.

“The independence of the judiciary should be re-instated and the government should stop passing laws that interfere with access to justice,” Greene said.

Law Society human rights committee chair Tony Fisher, who told the meeting that he had observed many trials in Turkey, said he had come across one court, sited within a prison, that had a dock which could hold 500 defendants. 

“Compounding the problem, prosecutors sit next to judges and evidence is frequently rejected with no reason given,” he said, while explaining the problems of Turkish lawyers in performing their profession.

Speakers in the event also said that the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) had failed in supporting Turkish lawyers, the online news site said.

The Law Society, European bar associations and some NGOs also made a joint statement and called on Turkish authorities to respect the independence of the judiciary prosecution services in accordance with internationally recognised principles and guidelines.

The bar associations across the world on Thursday examined the situation in Turkey, on the Day of the Endangered Lawyer, an annual event to draw attention to governments who actively suppress lawyers from representing clients by harassment, fines, disbarment, imprisonment, and even extrajudicial torture and killing.

Lawyers in Turkey also organised a march in Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue on Thursday to mark the day.