Prosecutors launch investigation into Diyarbakır Bar Association

The chief prosecutor’s office in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır has launched an investigation into several statements made by the former head and the members of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, Duvar news site reported on Thursday.

The prosecutor’s office launched the investigation under the Article 301 in the Turkish Criminal Code, which states that it is illegal to "insult Turkey, the Turkish nation, or Turkish government institutions." 

The bar association said in a written statement that the investigation was related to several press releases and reports of the institution. One of the press releases was made on April 24, 2017 to mark the anniversary of the deportation of Armenian intellectuals from Istanbul in 1915.

The association is also being investigated for using the work “Kurdistan” in a press release criticising a parliamentary disciplinary action against Osman Baydemir, a former deputy of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and former mayor of Diyarbakır.

The prosecutors accuse the bar association of “failing to recognise the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist organisation” in a report that examined the deaths of two Turkish civilians, a father and a son, in 2017. The civilians were reportedly hit by an armed drone belonging to Turkish military in a rural area in the southeastern province of Hakkari.

Nahit Eren, a former board member of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, testified to the prosecutors in relation the investigation.

“Diyarbakır Bar Association has not given up its responsibility to defend and protect human rights under all circumstances. A bar association that has paid a heavy price for this purpose cannot be scared by investigation threats. We stand behind of all our statements and reports,” Eren said on Twitter on Thursday. 

Tahir Elçi, one of the former presidents of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, was shot dead in 2015 during a gun battle between the police and unidentified gunmen in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, while delivering a speech to advocate peace.

Turkish Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu said in a television program in June that Diyarbakır Bar Association was affiliated to the PKK.

“We are not afraid. We are at the same place you killed Tahir Elçi,” the bar association said in a written statement following Soylu’s accusations.

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