Turkey should release 55 lawyers arrested in Ankara - European law societies

Turkish authorities should immediately release and drop all charges against 55 lawyers recently arrested in Ankara, a group of European law societies said on Thursday.

“The arrest of these lawyers is connected to and serves to curb their legitimate activities as lawyers,”  organisations, including the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, the German Bar Association and the Law Society of England and Wales, said in an open letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The legal professionals were detained in dawn raids on Sept. 11, during which their offices were searched and they were questioned in relation to their professional activities, a move contrary to the U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, the letter said.

The Ankara prosecutor’s office said the police raids were part of a terrorism investigation.

However, the law societies reiterated that lawyers should not be identified with their clients. “It is the responsibility of lawyers to defend the rights of citizens from whatever quarter they may be threatened,” the letter said.

Law societies have repeatedly raised concerns about the persecution of lawyers in Turkey. In August, 28 international associations signed an open letter drawing attention to the cases of human rights lawyers Aytaç Ünsa and Ebru Timtik, the latter of whom died on Aug. 27 after more than 230 days on hunger strike in her fight for a fair trial.