Turkey jailed 555 lawyers, European bars say in a letter to Erdoğan for their release

Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE), which represents more than 1 million European lawyers, wrote a letter to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to urge the release of Turkish lawyers in prison.

Signed by CCBE President, Ruthven Gemmell, the letter expressed concern regarding the recent convictions of 20 Turkish lawyers in Konya, including the former head of the Konya Bar Association, Fevzi Kayacan, who was sentenced to 10 years and 6 months of imprisonment.

Gemmell also raised concerns on the torture and ill treatment of lawyers in detention. The letter notes that the president of Progressive Lawyers Association, Selçuk Kozağaçlı, who has been representing the Soma Mine Disaster Victims and political prisoners on hunger strike, was beaten during detention.

The council also provided the number of lawyers under criminal prosecution in Turkey as 1433, and lawyers arrested since the coup attempt in July 2016 as 555.

CCBE respectfully urges your Excellency to ensure that all the lawyers mentioned above are released immediately as it is believed that their detention is solely motivated by their activities as lawyers. In addition, the CCBE asks you to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of lawyers in Turkey as well as their ability to perform their professional duties without fear of reprisal, hindrance, intimidation or harassment.

CCBE also cited the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, (attached), in particular, Principles 16 and 17 on Guarantees for the functioning of lawyers.

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

Established in 1960, Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries, and Turkish Bars Association is an associate member.