Turkish police attack mourners of lawyer Ebru Timtik in Istanbul

Turkish police on Friday attacked mourners gathered at an Alevi cultural centre in Istanbul to pay their respects to lawyer Ebru Timtik, who died on Thursday night after more than 230 days on hunger strike in her fight for a fair trial.

Police user pepper spray and fired rubber bullets on crowds looking to make their way to the city’s Gazi cemetery, where Timtik was being laid to rest, Evrensel newspaper reported.

Timtik died in an Istanbul hospital on Thursday on the 238th day of her hunger strike.

The lawyer was arrested in 2017 over terrorism charges, related to her clients who faced similar charges over membership of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). She was sentenced to 13 years and 6 months in prison in 2019 and had been on a hunger strike along with seven other lawyers from the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD) since February 3 this year.

Police on Friday took the body of Timtik straight from the forensic medical department to the Alevi cultural centre in Istanbul’s Gazi district to stop lawyers from her bar association and friends carrying her there.

A group of lawyers on Friday held a ceremony in front of the Istanbul Bar Association, Evrensel said.

“Everyone should know that this death could have been prevented,” Istanbul Bar Association head Mehmet Durakoğlu said during the ceremony. “But they didn’t…we will continue our struggle. While wishing for God’s mercy on her, we promise that will be defenders of just trials.”

Timtik and 17 other lawyers from the association were put on trial over falsified and otherwise inadmissible evidence, according to the ÇHD, which maintains the case against the lawyers was based on a piece of evidence that had carried over from another investigation in 2013, and the digital file had not been copied or preserved appropriately.

A forensic medical report dated July 30 stated that prison was detrimental to Timtik’s health. But a judge ruled her continued detention was justified as she posed a “flight risk.”

A large poster of Timtik was unfurled in front of the Bar Association in Istanbul on Friday, prompting reactions from the government.

“It is unacceptable for the bar association to be the backyard for illegal and marginal formations,” Deutsche Welle Turkish cited Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül as saying on Saturday.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said he condemned the bar association for “hanging the photograph of a member of a terrorist organisation,” and vowed to launch a criminal complaint against the group.

The poster of Timtik has since been removed, a move Soylu claimed was carried out by the police. 

But the Istanbul Bar Association released a written statement on Saturday that the move to hang the poster of Timtik was done “despite the association” and the decision to remove the poster was also made by them, Deutsche Welle said.