Decree removes requirement for defendants to hear evidence used against them

The decree law no 696 issued on Sunday removed significant fair trial protections from the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code, the left-leaning newspaper Birgün reported.

The decree lifted the requirement that a defence attorney must be present during trials, and amended the clause saying the evidence against a defendant must be read in full. With the amendment, the evidence will be simply described or “expressed,” leaving room for the prosecutors to hide evidence from the defence, the newspaper said.

These are direct violations of the Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights on fair trial, Birgün said, which reads as follows:

“Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

(c) to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require.

(d) to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him.”

The decree also annulled violations of the right to a defence and the absence of reasoned decision from the court of appeals’ criteria, Birgün wrote, removing the two primary causes that lead to the overturning of lower courts’ judgements.

The decree no 696 entered into force on Sunday.

The 137-article omnibus decree amended or annulled various clauses referring only to a law’s code number and article number, without providing any justification or explanatory notes.