Turkish lawyer facing 143 lawsuits vows to never leave the country

Prominent Turkish human rights lawyer and activist Eren Keskin, who has 143 legal cases filed against her and is awaiting an appeal against a 12 and-a-half-year prison sentence, told left-wing news site Gazete Duvar that she had no intention of fleeing the country and would continue her struggle from behind bars.

Keskin, who served as the editor-in-chief for pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem newspaper from 2013 to 2016, has received fines of 14,500 euros in six of the cases on various charges, including publishing articles deemed to have been degrading to the Turkish nation and insulting to the Turkish president.

Keskin has found guilty in 69 of those cases, but the cases remain under review before the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. Unless the verdicts are reversed, Keskin faces sentences of up to 12 and-a-half years and fines of approximately 93,000 euros. There are still 47 cases against Keskin awaiting verdicts.

"In actuality they want all of us to leave. If we don’t leave they will be forced to change the law. If my sentence is upheld I’m going to continue my struggle. This is my way of life,’’ the 59-year-old lawyer told Gazete Duvar.

Keskin, who served a jail sentence in 1995 for using the word Kurdistan in Özgür Gündem, said one could take on the qualities of the state while struggling against the state and stressed that democratisation begins with oneself.

"How democratic am I? How much have I overcome male hegemony within myself? ... This is what my time behind bars has taught me to think about,’’ Keskin said. The deluge of lawsuits against her has put her on an inward journey, she said.

Keskin is the vice-president of the Human Rights Association and the founder of the Legal Aid Bureau against Sexual Harassment and Rape in Custody.

Her next scheduled court hearing is set to take place on March 28, 2019.