Over 20 int’l NGOs, bar associations condemn Turkey’s arrest of lawyers

Over 20 NGOs and bar associations across the world issued a joint statement on Wednesday, condemning Turkey’s mass-arrest campaigns targeting the country’s lawyers on terror charges.

The statement, published by civic group Arrested Lawyers Initiative, referred specifically to the Sept. 11 detention of 60 people, including 48 lawyers and others in the legal sector, suspected of operating in support of the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government accused of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office accuses the suspects of being part of the Gülen’s network, which is designated a terrorist organisation, and seeking to "steer investigations in favour of the group under the guise of attorney activities."

"It is a widely accepted  fact that in Turkey that 'terrorism' charges are political in nature and used to repress, intimated and silence any opposition,’’ Wednesday’s statement said.

The law groups urged the Turkish government to ensure the immediate release of arrested and imprisoned lawyers, ensure the investigation of those involved in their unlawful arrests and comply with United Nations principles on the roles of lawyers.

Since 2016, more than 1,500 lawyers have been prosecuted, more than 600 detained, and 345 convicted of various crimes as part of a government crackdown, according to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative. 

Turkey is ranked 109th out of 126 countries according to the 2019 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index.