Prosecutors in the Turkish capital of Ankara issued detention warrants on Tuesday for 36 people in two separate investigations, leading to the detention of 15 including seven lawyers due to their alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, the Bold Medya news website reported.
The detention warrants were issued based on the records of their phone conversations or on witness statements. Among those detained or facing detention are former police academy students and former public servants.
The suspects are accused of using ByLock, an encrypted messaging app considered by Turkey a secret tool of communication among supporters of the Gülen movement, and of having access to the questions on a State Personnel Examination (KPSS) held in 2013.
Following an abortive putsch in July 2016, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.
According to a statement from Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ in July, 117,208 people have been convicted, with 1,366 sentenced to life in prison and 1,634 to aggravated life with no chance of parole following the coup attempt. While 87,519 people have been acquitted of charges specifically related to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, according to Bozdağ, there are doubts about the number of people who have been acquitted of all charges by a court of law.
Judicial experts voice skepticism about the figures announced by the minister, saying that 117,208 convictions are only those that have been upheld by an appeals court, since Justice Ministry data show that more than 265,000 people were sentenced on charges of terrorist organization membership between 2016 and 2020 due to their alleged Gülen links.
Turkish police have detained 17 lawyers in İstanbul due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Turkish Minute reported.
The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office recently ordered the detention of 20 lawyers, accusing them of ties to the movement based on payphone call records and affiliation with Bank Asya, which was closed by the government following a 2016 coup attempt due to its links to the Gülen movement and other associations connected to the group.
Seventeen of them were detained in operations simultaneously carried out in İstanbul, Ankara and Bursa provinces on Friday, Bold Medya said, adding that the police also seized their computers, mobile phones and books, claiming they were terrorism-related documents.
The Turkish government accuses the faith-based Gülen movement of masterminding the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
The so-called “payphone investigations” are based on call records. The prosecutors assume that a member of the Gülen movement used the same payphone to call all his contacts consecutively. Based on that assumption, when an alleged member of the movement is found in call records, it is assumed that other numbers called right before or after that call also belong to people with Gülen links.
“Where is the European Court of Human Rights when it is needed most?!”
24th June 202210:30am
Join us to stand in solidarity with hundreds of thousands, who have been silenced by the Erdogan Regime and remind the the European Court of Human Rights of its duties by raising your voice in front of the ECHR and ask these Questions.
24th of June 2022
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) turns a blind eye to the gross State Crimescommitted by the Erdoğan regime in Turkey and idly watches as it chokes on the victims on a daily basis.
The Court has had several opportunities to establish the facts regarding these violations in Turkey and compel the regime to respect the basic tenets of European Convention of Human Rights. However, it failed in the execution of its duties and rendered incompetent especially regarding the systemic violations of the rights of Hizmet Movement affiliates. As the victims amount up to hundreds of thousands the violations constitute clear crimes against humanity.
In recognition of that, we, a broad variety of people from all over Europe, will stand in solidarity with the victims and remind the ECHR that fundamental rights belong to every human being regardless of their identity!
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that Bulgaria appeared unable to provide effective guarantees that its citizens would not be subjected to “abusive surveillance” by the authorities.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on Tuesday in favour of two lawyers who claimed that under the system of secret surveillance in Bulgaria, the communications of anyone in the country can be intercepted and accessed by the authorities.
The two lawyers, Mihail Ekimdzhiev and Aleksandar Kashamov, complained that the laws governing the interception and retention of surveillance data do not provide sufficient safeguards against arbitrary or abusive surveillance and accessing of the data.
Ekimdzhiev and Kashamov also argued that Bulgaria’s National Bureau for Control of Special Means of Surveillance operates with limited transparency, and that there is no effective remedy if there are abuses.
Neither claimed that they had been put under secret surveillance, but argued that the nature of their activities put them at risk of being put under surveillance and therefore of having their communications data accessed by the authorities.
The Strasbourg-based court ruled that Bulgaria had violated the right to respect for private life and correspondence under the European Convention on Human Rights with regard to secret surveillance and to the retention and accessing of communications data.
“The system of overseeing secret surveillance in Bulgaria as it was currently organised did not appear capable of providing effective guarantees against abusive surveillance,” it said in a statement.
1. The present two applications concern the restrictions imposed on the bank accounts of the applicants and on the freedom of movement of the applicant by the domestic authorities. The applicants raise various complaints under Articles 6, 11, 13, 18 and 34 of the Convention, Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.
2. The applicants’ details and the names of their representatives are listed in the Appendix.
3. The Government were represented by their Agent, Mr Ç. Əsgərov.
7. Soon thereafter the bank accounts of numerous non-governmental organisations and civil society activists were frozen by the domestic authorities within the framework of criminal case no. 142006023. The domestic proceedings concerning the freezing of those bank accounts are the subject of the present two and other applications pending before the Court (see, for example the communicated cases, Imranova andOthers v.Azerbaijan, nos. 59462/14 and 4 others; Economic Research Centre andOthers v.Azerbaijan, nos. 74254/14 and 5 others; and Abdullayev andOthers v.Azerbaijan, nos. 74363/14 and 7 others).
8. Various human rights defenders and civil society activists were also arrested within the framework of the same criminal proceedings in connection with their activities within or with various non-governmental organisations. The domestic proceedings concerning the arrest and pre-trial detention of some of those human rights defenders and civil society activists have already been examined by the Court (see, for example, Rasul Jafarovv. Azerbaijan, no. 69981/14, 17 March 2016; Mammadli v. Azerbaijan, no. 47145/14, 19 April 2018; Aliyev v. Azerbaijan, nos. 68762/14 and 71200/14, 20 September 2018; and Yunusova and Yunusov v.Azerbaijan (no. 2), no. 68817/14, 16 July 2020).
9. In July 2014 the applicant was invited to the Prosecutor General’s Office where he was questioned about the applicant association’s activities. Between July 2014 and 2016 he was again questioned, on several occasions, by the prosecuting authorities about the same activities.
IMPOSITION OF THE RESTRICTIONS ON THE APPLICANTS’ BANK ACCOUNTS
In respect of the applicant association’s bank accounts
11. According to the applicant association, on an unspecified date in July 2014 its chairman, the applicant, went to the local branch of the International Bank of Azerbaijan where he was informed by a bank official of the attachment order.
12. On 14 July 2014 the applicant association asked the Nasimi District Court for a copy of the attachment order and received it on the same day.
13. On 16 July 2014 the applicant association appealed against the Nasimi District Court’s order of 19 May 2014, claiming a breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. It submitted that an attachment order could not be taken in respect of its bank accounts within the meaning of Article 248 of the CCrP since neither the applicant association nor its members were accused in any criminal proceedings. It also noted that an attachment order could be taken within the meaning of Article 248.1 of the CCrP only for the purposes of ensuring the payment of a civil claim or the confiscation of property when provided for by criminal law. However, criminal case no. 142006023 was instituted under Articles 308.1 and 313 of the Criminal Code which did not provide for confiscation of property as a sanction. Lastly, it pointed out that the attachment order was disproportionate since, even assuming that there were doubts about the origin of the money received from the United States of America’s National Endowment for Democracy, the attachment order should have concerned only the impugned amount, and not all the bank accounts of the applicant association. Together with its appeal, the applicant association also lodged a request for restoration of the time-limit for lodging an appeal. In support of its restoration request, it submitted that it had never been informed of the Nasimi District Court’s hearing of 19 May 2014 and had obtained a copy of the impugned order only on 14 July 2014.
14. On 18 July 2014 the Nasimi District Court dismissed the applicant association’s request for restoration of the time-limit for lodging an appeal. The court found that the applicant association had failed to submit any evidence showing that there was a valid reason for missing the three-day time-limit for lodging an appeal. The decision did not address the applicant association’s arguments concerning the court’s failure to inform it of its hearing of 19 May 2014 or to provide it with a copy of the impugned order of its own initiative.
15. On 21 July 2014 the applicant association appealed against that decision, reiterating its previous arguments.
16. On 24 July 2014 the Baku Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, without examining the applicant association’s arguments in respect of the restoration of the time-limit for lodging an appeal.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
Decides to join the applications;
Declares the applications admissible;
Holds that there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention in respect of both applicants;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 8,000 (eight thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, to the applicant association in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 15,000 (fifteen thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, to the applicant in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage;
(iii) EUR 1,900 (one thousand and nine hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, in respect of costs and expenses, to be paid directly into the bank account of their representative, Mr R. Mustafazade;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
For years there has been an interesting debate in Europe about whether protections for lawyers’ rights should be strengthened. The Council of Europe (CoE), which covers 47 member states including the UK, is considering whether continuing attacks on lawyers call for a new legal instrument.
In other words, are the CoE’s 2000 recommendation ‘on the freedom of exercise of the profession of lawyers’, R(2000)21, together with the rights embedded in the European Convention on Human Rights, enough to ensure that lawyers do not suffer when carrying out their duties – and suffer they do, as explained below.
Now a new CoE report says that our rights need a new binding convention specifically focused on lawyers. The report is almost unfindable on the CoE website, and labours under the distinctly unappealing title of ‘Feasibility study on a new, binding or non-binding, European legal instrument on the profession of lawyer – possible added-value and effectiveness’.
Despite this obscurity, and the fact that it is written as a technical report for a technical committee and so not quite up to the excitement of an airport thriller, it turns out to be one of the most useful documents written about the European legal profession for a long time. And it is by an English barrister, Jeremy McBride.
It is useful for many reasons. First, it recites the violence and threats that lawyers face: murder and other assaults; being prevented from meeting clients; communications being monitored and homes and businesses searched; forcing lawyers to act as witnesses against clients; using admission or disciplinary procedures to exclude those whom the authorities consider politically undesirable; and creating bars which are not independent enough to protect members.
Each of these categories is documented with cases. And the report states that it is impossible exactly to quantify the problem, since there is no place in Europe or elsewhere which monitors the position of lawyers alone. Attacks on lawyers are monitored via other collective mandates, such as with human rights defenders or with judges.
Every Friday since November, a group of activists founded by Turkish lawyers in Europe have gathered before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as part of the ‘Movement for Unconditional Justice’. Their goal: bring Turkey’s judicial plight and rights violations to the attention of Europe’s top human rights court.
“Detaining lawyers has become routine practice in Turkey, deepening the climate of fear and repression across the country. Lawyers are also coming under physical, sometimes fatal, attack,” warns Stefan Simanowitz of Amnesty International
Turkish lawyers have been among the primary victims of an ongoing government crackdown implemented in the aftermath of the failed military coup back in 2016, in which 250 people were killed. The Turkish government accuse them of representing clients who had links to the network behind the coup, with President Tayyip Erdogan speaking last September of the need to ‘cut the road from lawyer to terrorist’. Straight after his speech, 115 lawyers from different groups were detained. Over the last decade, Turkish courts have handed down 2,728 years of prison sentences to 441 attorneys.
Roisin Pillay, Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said that ‘lawyers should never be arrested or sanctioned for representing their clients, or identified with their clients’ causes.’
The detentions are just one facet of an ever-escalating series of hurdles placed before the country’s lawyers.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on Tuesday fined Turkey over the local prison administration’s refusal to grant a request for access to certain Internet sites lodged by lawyer Ramazan Demir in the course of his pre-trial detention in İstanbul’s Silivri Prison, where most political prisoners are held, in 2016.
The rights court also ordered Turkey to pay 1,500 euros in compensation to Demir.
Demir, a human rights lawyer, represents Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, before the ECtHR. Accused of membership in a terrorist organization and disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization, Demir was put in pre-trial detention on April 6, 2016 and released on September 7 of the same year.
On April 12, 2016 Demir asked the prison administration to allow him to access the Internet sites of the ECtHR, Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the Official Gazette so he could obtain legal information needed to follow his clients’ cases before these two courts and to prepare his own defense in the criminal proceedings against him.
Citing Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Demir complained that his right to receive information had been violated by Turkish prison authorities and courts.
In its Committee judgment in the case of L.P. and Carvalho v. Portugal (applications nos. 24845/13 and 49103/15) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:
a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights
The case concerned findings of liability against two lawyers for defamation (L.P.) and for attacking a person’s honour (Mr Carvalho) in respect of two judges, on account of documents drawn up by the lawyers in their capacity as representatives.
The Court found, in particular, that both applicants had been acting in the performance of their professional duties as lawyers. It further considered that the penalties had been apt to have a chilling effect on the profession of lawyer as a whole, especially with regard to lawyers’ defence of their clients’ interests. Consequently, the reasons given by the domestic courts to justify finding the applicants liable had been neither relevant nor sufficient and had not corresponded to a pressing social need. The interference had thus been disproportionate and had not been necessary in a democratic society.