April 10, 2019
Turkey has been arbitrarily jailing hundreds of lawyers and putting them on trial in the aftermath of the country’s failed military coup in July 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The move is part of the Turkish authorities’ major assault on the right to a fair trial and on the role of lawyers in the administration of justice.
The 56-page report, “Lawyers on Trial: Abusive Prosecutions and Erosion of Fair Trial Rights in Turkey,” examines how since the failed coup, police and prosecutors have targeted lawyers with criminal investigation and arbitrary detention, associating them with their clients’ alleged crimes. The government brings charges against lawyers who expose rights abuses with little or no evidence of their membership of terrorist organizations. Courts have complied with the attack on the legal profession by sentencing lawyers to lengthy prison terms for terrorism on flimsy evidence and in trials that ignore fair procedure. The abusive prosecutions of lawyers have been accompanied by legal amendments that undermine the right to legal counsel for those arbitrarily detained on terrorism charges.
“Putting hundreds of lawyers in jail and on trial, and restricting their ability to act for people in police custody and in court, shows the dire state of Turkey’s criminal justice system and should be of grave concern to everyone in Turkey and internationally,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Lawyers are central guarantors of the right to a fair trial and Turkey’s willingness to flout it over the past three years is deeply alarming.”