Daily Archives: 16/06/2021

Turkey: Sentencing and continued judicial harassment of human rights lawyer Sevda Özbingöl Çelik


The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing and continued judicial harassment of Sevda Özbingöl Çelik, a human rights lawyer from the Urfa Bar Association and a member of the Human Rights Association (IHD) Urfa Branch and Urfa Bar’s Human Rights Center.

On June 7, 2021, Urfa’s Sixth Heavy Penal Court sentenced Sevda Özbingöl Çelik to 11 years and six months of prison, on charges of “membership to a terrorist organisation” (Article 314/2 of the Turkish Criminal Code), “violating the Law no. 2911 on Assemblies and Meetings” (Article 28 of the Law no. 2911), and “terrorist propaganda” (Article 7/2 of Anti-Terror Law).

These charges are related to her participation to “unauthorised” peaceful assemblies between 2013 and 2017 in relation to women’s rights, hunger strikes of prisoners and accountability for the killings of civilians, during which “terrorist propaganda” was allegedly made through banners and slogans; to her meetings with her clients as a lawyer; her social media posts; and her membership to associations that were shut down following the passing of emergency decrees [1]. Furthermore, the charges are based on the testimonies of two anonymous witnesses – one of which later withdrew her testimony –, who claim Sevda Özbingöl Çelik ensured “communication between the members of the terrorist organisation” through meetings with her imprisoned clients and that she was herself allegedly seen with other members of the terrorist organisation. This lack of credible evidence is symptomatic of judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Turkey, and the use of anonymous witnesses in cases involving terrorism charges has been systematically criticised by civil society in Turkey and international actors for violating the right to fair trial.

Furthermore, the judicial control measures and travel ban previously imposed on her remain in force. The sentence against her is not final and her lawyers have declared they will appeal the sentence, and she will remain free until her appeal takes place. If her conviction is upheld, she will be imprisoned to serve the sentence and will lose her license to practice as a lawyer.

The Observatory recalls that on March 12, 2020, Sevda Özbingöl Çelik’s house and office were raided and she was subsequently arrested, in the context of coordinated arrests and raids in the houses and offices of 13 human rights lawyers [2]. The Prosecutor’s Office in Urfa initially opened an investigation against her for “assisting a terrorist organisation” (Article 220/7 of the Turkish Criminal Code). On March 17, 2020, the Peace Judgeship ordered the pre-trial detention of Sevda Özbingöl Çelik in Urfa, based on “her representation of individuals charged with membership to a terrorist organisation” as a lawyer and “her visits to the prison”. An anonymous witness alleged that she was among the lawyers who supported the communication between prisoners. After nine months in pre-trial detention, she was released on judicial control on December 11, 2020, and imposed a travel ban pending trial.




https://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/avukat-sevda-celik-ozbingole-11-yil-hapis-haber-1524718 (TURKCE)



Romania: Joint letter on conviction and imprisonment Robert Roșu


Joint letter on conviction and imprisonment Robert Roșu

In a joint letter Lawyers for Lawyers and the Law Society of England and Wales express concern about the conviction and imprisonment of lawyer Robert Roșu from Romania.

On 17 December 2020, the High Court of Justice and Cassation of Romania found lawyer Robert Roșu, partner at the law firm Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii in Bucharest, guilty of participating in the formation of an organized criminal group and of complicity to abuse of office, and sentenced him to 5 years in prison.

According to the information received, the criminal case against Mr. Roșu is most likely related to his professional activities in the  ‘Băneasa Farm Case’ regarding the restitution of large plots of land in northern Bucharest to the heir of King Carol II of Romania.

Mr. Roșu, as the latter’s legal representative, secured the restitution, as well as the restitution of of other property to different clients through administrative procedures. In December 2015, Mr. Roșu was charged with the formation of an organized criminal group, complicity to abuse of office, influence peddling, and money laundering and placed under house arrest for three months. We believe that Mr Rosu’s conviction is related to his work as a lawyer, specifically his work on the above-mentioned restitution cases. In March 2016, a judge of the Criminal Division of the High Court of Cassation and Justice found that Mr. Roșu’s actions “fall within the limits of the activities normally carried out by a lawyer”. On 11 March 2016, Mr. Roșu was released from house arrest.

However, the National Anticorruption Directorate (NAD) decided that the criminal prosecution against Mr. Roșu should continue and indicted him in May 2016. In June 2019, the Brașov Court of Appeals acquitted Mr. Roșu of all charges, establishing that there was no indication that Mr. Roșu committed any of the crimes with which he had been charged.  The NAD decided to appeal the sentence issued by the Brasov Court of Appeals before the High Court of Cassation and Justice. In the view of the NAD’s prosecutors, Mr. Roșu was criminally guilty for his “mere presence” alongside his client in proceedings before a restitution commission, for using “an important volume of information referring to legal terminology”, and for excessively “persuasive” pleadings.







Iran: Amirsalar Davoudi released temporarily on bail after spending two years and seven months in detention


On 13 June 2021, human rights defender Amirsalar Davoudi was released on  bail of 20 billion IRR from Rajaie Shahr prison in Alborz province. His temporary release is followed by the decision of Branch 41 of the Supreme Court to accept the human rights defender’s request for retrial, due to irregularities in the legal process of his trial. Consequently, Branch 28 of Tehran’s Revolutionary court has been assigned for the retrial of the human rights defender. The first court session is scheduled for 20 June 2021.

On 16 April 2021, human rights defender Amirsalar Davoudi, currently imprisoned in Rajae Shahr prison, was transferred from solitary confinement to a public ward. The human rights defender had spent three days in solitary confinement following his transfer to the prison from Evin prison on 13 April 2021. The transferring of prisoners without notice or explanation, a tactic which the prison authorities in Iran have resorted to with increasing frequency in the first four months of 2021, continues to be used, despite official recommendations not to travel to some provinces due to COVID-19, and has reportedly exposed those prisoners being transferred to increased risk of contracting COVID-19.

Amirsalar Davoudi is a human rights defender and a member of the Human Rights Commission of the Iranian Bar Association. In his work as a human rights lawyer, Amirsalar Davoudi has represented many detained human rights defenders and political prisoners. The human rights defender is also the founder and director of a Telegram Channel, “Without Retouching,” featuring a variety of critical content about the authorities’ treatment of lawyers in particular and more generally, the human rights situation in Iran.

Amirsalar Davoudi was initially arrested on 20 November 2018 by security agents in his law office. On 28 May 2019 he learned that Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran had sentenced him to a total of 30 years’ imprisonment and 111 lashes, on account of six charges including “insulting the Supreme Leader”,“spreading propaganda against the system” and “forming a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” in relation to his human rights work. The charges were in connection to media interviews he had given and posts he had uploaded to his Telegram channel. According to Art. 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, Amirsalar Davoudi would have served the most severe single sentence, which in his case was 15 years for “forming a group with the purpose of disrupting national security”.





The Philippines: Supreme Court panel to evaluate cases of attacks on lawyers, judges


The Supreme Court (SC) has assigned a committee to evaluate cases of killings and threats against lawyers and judges.

In his Meet the Press event, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said they received numerous records involving attacks on members of the judiciary.

“Kailangan himayin ito upang maunawaan namin at saka lamang kami makapagbibigay ng action [We have to carefully study this and only then can we take action]. We will act on the results of those reports and recommendation within the jurisdiction of the judiciary,” Gesmundo added.

In March, the SC issued a rare statement condemning the killings of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors. Various groups, including lawyers’ organizations, urged the high court to act and address the rising number of attacks.

More than 60 lawyers, judges, and prosecutors have been killed under the Duterte administration.

The SC then ordered lower courts, law enforcement agencies, and public interest groups to submit “relevant information to shed light on the number and context of each and every threat or killing of a lawyer or judge within the past 10 years.”

Gesmundo said if the cases are outside the judiciary’s jurisdiction, they would endorse the results to appropriate government institutions “for them to address these issues.”













UAE: Open letter to UAE ambassador urging the release of human rights lawyer Mohammed al-Roken



Dear Ambassador,

We are writing to you to call for the urgent release of Dr Mohammed Al-Roken, an outstanding Emirati human rights lawyer, who is unfairly detained for providing legal support to human rights defenders and peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.  

Since Dr Mohammed Al-Roken’s arrest on 17 July 2012 and his consequent sentencing on 2 July 2013, he has been subjected to discriminatory treatment. Dr Al-Roken, along with a group of prominent academics and activists, was subjected to a grossly unfair mass trial in which he was sentenced to 10 years. The mass trial coined ‘UAE 94’ saw Dr Al-Roken subjected to various violations; denied rights to legal representation and refused access to court documents until the second hearing.

Violations against Dr Al-Roken have continued inside Al-Razeen prison, where he is detained. Recent revelations show he has been exposed to constant illumination for 24 hours a day, impacting his mental and physical health as persistent light causes sleep deprivation. Previously, Dr Al-Roken has experienced music torture, whereby prison guards blast propaganda music in his cell continuously for hours at unbearably high volumes, causing him to pass out due to high blood pressure. Furthermore, due to his appalling prison conditions and subsequent poor health, Dr Al-Roken has become more at risk of becoming infected with Covid-19, notably as the coronavirus pandemic has spread into numerous UAE prisons.