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The three-day hearing of the ÇHD case began today at the Silivri Prison Complex in İstanbul.
Several lawyers’ groups from around the world, including France’s National Bar Council and bar associations of Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels and Bologna have announced support for the Progressive Lawyers Association, whose members have been on trial for seven years.
“We wholeheartedly and without reservation support you in your request for acquittal and immediate release,” the groups said in the letter.
The ÇHD İstanbul Chair read out a letter sent by the organizations at today’s (January 5) hearing of the ÇHD case.
The hearing of 22 lawyers from the ÇHD and the People’s Law Bureau (HHB) will take place at the Silivri Prison Complex Courtroom between today and January 7.
Two of the defendants, ÇHD Chair Selçuk Kozağaçlı and lawyer Barkın Timtik, have been remanded in custody for five years.
The prosecutor who was on September 15 appointed to the case that has been continuing for seven years and submitted their opinion as to the accusations on November 17, demanding the punishment of Kozağaçlı for “managing an illegal organization” and the other defendants for “being a member of an illegal organization.”
Full text of the letter by the lawyers’ groups:
“With this letter, we would like to support you in the hearings of January 5, 6 and 7, 2021, which will take place before the 18th Chamber of the High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
“We have observed the hearings of this trial between 2013 and 2021 and have conducted fact-finding missions on several occasions. It is clear from our observations and investigations that the trial against you is essentially political, has not met the guarantees of a fair trial, and has directly undermined the independence of lawyers.
The Egyptian government initiated at least five Emergency State Security Court trials against high-profile human rights defenders, activists, and political opponents on alleged speech offenses ahead of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s October 25, 2021, declaration ending the country’s nationwide state of emergency, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should immediately call a halt to these unjust trials before special courts where no appeal is possible.
On December 20, a verdict is expected in the case of Alaa Abdel Fattah, an activist; Mohamed al-Baqer, a human rights lawyer; and Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim, a blogger, who are charged with ““spreading false news undermining national security.” .” On December 15, the trial for 31 members and alleged members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), a prominent Egyptian rights group, was postponed until December 26.
“Trials of human rights defenders and peaceful critics in these special courts for peaceful dissent constitute a grave injustice because the President’s broad authority over these courts undermines their independence and impartiality,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government’s rush to use emergency courts before declaring the end to the state of emergency, after holding people illegally for years in pretrial detention, confirms that fierce repression of peaceful critics remains the order of the day in Egypt.”
At least 48 unjustly detained rights defenders, activists, and opposition politicians who had languished in pre-trial detention for months and years were referred to the emergency courts for trial just before the president lifted the state of emergency. The move indicated the government’s determination to subject these detainees to the exceptional rules of these courts.
We, the undersigned members of the global legal community, stand in solidarity with Egyptian lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer as he awaits his verdict on baseless criminal charges on December 20, 2021, following years of reprisal by the Egyptian state. We call on the Egyptian authorities to drop all charges against el-Baqer, to promptly release him unconditionally, and to lift the restrictive measures imposed on him for his work as an attorney. We further call on the Egyptian authorities to halt the targeting of Egyptian lawyers for their legal defense work and exercise of fundamental freedoms.
Mohamed el-Baqer is a human rights lawyer and the founder and director of the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms. He has a long history defending individuals whose rights have been violated, including religious and ethnic minorities, and of providing pro bono legal assistance to those prosecuted for exercising their rights to assembly and expression. In November 2020, el-Baqer was awarded the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) Human Rights Award for his “courage, determination, and commitment to defending human rights in Egypt.” In 2021, he was one of three finalists for the UIA/Lexis Nexus Rule of Law Award after being nominated by the Law Society of England and Wales. Members of the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, and the UN Special Procedures are only some of the individuals and entities from around the world who have stood in solidarity with el-Baqer.
El-Baqer was first arrested on September 29, 2019 while representing his client, renowned blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, before the Supreme State Security Prosecution. He was questioned in the same case, faced with a series of arbitrary charges, and remanded into pretrial detention. Since then, el-Baqer has been charged in additional criminal cases through “rotation” (tadwir), the practice of ordering individuals into new criminal cases, where the charges and fact patterns are similar if not the same as earlier cases and which facilitates the bypassing of release orders and the circumventing of pretrial detention maximums. El-Baqer was also designated under the country’s terrorist list pending a case for which he has never been questioned; as a result, he faces a travel ban, asset freeze, and potential disbarment. Most recently, he was referred to Emergency State Security Court on the baseless charge of “publishing false news that harms the country’s interests on his social media page.” His trial has continued despite President Sisi’s declaration ending the formal state of emergency in October 2021. A verdict, against which there can be no judicial appeal, is set to be handed down on December 20, 2021.
Since his arrest, el-Baqer has faced extensive due process and other human rights violations. His pretrial detention has been regularly renewed in near-automatic fashion and without proper review; at times, he has not been physically brought before the authority reviewing his detention. His legal team has been unable to visit him in prison since COVID-19 restrictions were announced in March 2020. As his trial ensued, the court has refused to allow his team permission to photocopy the 1,500-page case file and his legal team has been denied the right to present a proper defense. In custody, el-Baqer has been subject to ill-treatment and inhumane detention conditions in the maximum security prison in which he is held. These conditions, coupled with the denial of his outdoor recreation time, and access to books, a clock, and a mirror have resulted in a severe deterioration to his physical and mental health.
Afghanistan Bar Association head pleads for international help as armed Taliban take over offices, displace leadership
The President of the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association, Rohullah Qarizada, went on Twitter Wednesday appealing for international assistance after armed Taliban took over the Association’s offices in Kabul. He said “fifty armed Taliban came in AIBA and forcibly took over Bar.” The incursion occurred Tuesday in the wake of a Taliban cabinet directive authorizing the Ministry of Justice to strip the AIBA of its lawyer licensing authority and vest that instead in the Ministry.
Commenting on the takeover of the AIBA office, Qarizada insisted: “The bar is independent, non-governmental, and non-political. The Bar did not receive any funding from the government.”
A JURIST correspondent in Kabul says a Ministry of Justice letter to the AIBA shown in Qarizada’s tweet refers to the Taliban Cabinet Decision No. 10 dated November 14, 2021. According to the letter the Ministry of Justice should regulate affairs related to the AIBA, especially the issuing of licenses. Our correspondent adds: “But the Cabinet decision does not state anything regarding the structure of AIBA. The Ministry interpreted the decision as authorizing it to bring AIBA under its structure and requested lawyers to obtain licenses from them. The person appointed as the new AIBA head is said to be part of the Ministry of Justice but has no relevant experience.”
The Afghanistan Independent Bar Association was formed in 2008 with the assistance of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) and previously received support from USAID. At last count, before the Taliban takeover, the Association had more than 2,500 registered lawyers practicing in the Afghan courts. According to the IBAHRI, the AIBA is “the only bar association in the world to have a quota for women on all executive committees and at least one vice-president must be a woman.” At this time it is uncertain what impact AIBA “nationalization” will have on women in the Association’s leadership or member ranks.
“This is to inform Kenyans and the world that Air France officials at the check-in counter at the Berlin Brandenburg Airport have just informed me that the Government of Kenya sent them a “Red Alert” this morning that they cannot fly me to Nairobi, ” the statement read in part.
He, however, indicated that the airline had refused to give me a copy of the “Red Alert” or anything else they can give me proving the directive they were acting on.
In a statement seen by Kenyans.co.ke, the airline issued the lawyer with a denied boarding certificate. However, it only identified the cause as “other reason” which was added to a list of four using a pen.
The other reasons for being denied a entry to a flight indicated in the form and had been crossed out include the unavailability of seats, presentation of a passenger after the flight check in time limit and presentation after the the flight boarding closing time.
Miguna Miguna had initially stated that the government had planned to stop his return through issuing red alerts against him. In this regard, he filed a petition in court to have the government compelled to lift the red alerts.
However, the High Court in Nairobi dismissed his application, ruling that there was no sufficient evidence showing that he had been stopped from returning to the country.
The lawyer, who is now based in Canada, was kicked out of the country on grounds that he had renounced his Kenyan citizenship.
The government, through the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, asked him to regularise his papers to be allowed into the country.
Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and the President of the Law Society of Kenya, Nelson Havi, had stated that they would be travelling to ensure that they bring back Miguna to Kenya.
The mobilisation of support for Afghans has begun in Luxembourg, with the Bar Association gathering asylum specialists and refugee associations calling on the government.
On Thursday 19 August, a meeting was held in the presence of Luxembourg ombudsperson Claudia Monti, outgoing president of the Luxembourg Bar Association François Kremer and ten lawyers specialising in international protection, following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan a few days earlier. “The initiative comes from an exchange I had with Claudia Monti at the beginning of the week, where we thought of bringing together several members of the bar to initiate a discussion on the dramatic situation in which Afghanistan has been sinking for the last few days,” explains Franck Greff, lawyer and president of the immigration and international protection commission of the Luxembourg Bar.
The aim, says Greff, is to “pool our forces in order to have the most uniform discourse possible with regard to both the Directorate of Immigration and the administrative courts. In this context, the commission I chair is working on the subject so that a document will soon be issued by the bar, intended for all our colleagues.” A basic text is already being drafted on the current situation in Afghanistan. It will compile a maximum of relevant information to be shared in order to facilitate the work of lawyers who defend the cases of Afghan applicants for international protection.
“What does the ministry intend to do for these people?”
Greff, who specialises in international protection and immigration, has himself been contacted by a dozen of his clients since the beginning of the week in view of the deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan, and in Kabul in particular. “Some of them have, for example, had their applications for international protection refused by the Directorate of Immigration and have lodged an appeal with the administrative courts. They are wondering what initiatives we will be able to take.”
The ambition is thus, among other things, to re-evaluate all the files in the light of the current situation in Afghanistan. “This is the great challenge that’s before us now,” continues Greff. “The lawyers hope that the actions they will be able to carry out will enable favourable solutions for all Afghans who are currently on national territory, both those who are in proceedings before the Directorate of Immigration and those who are in litigation before the administrative courts, without forgetting the people who have been rejected. We are going to work for everyone.”
A group of professional legal bodies have urged the UK government to help lawyers trapped in Afghanistan.
In a joint statement, the Law Society, Bar Council and Bar Human Rights Committee call on the government to offer asylum to female judges and other legal professionals in Afghanistan.
They are “gravely concerned” about the situation in Afghanistan and the fate of all those working in the country’s justice system who now face “a perilous future” under Taliban rule.
“We are extremely worried about the situation of at least 250 women judges in the country who we consider to be at particular risk,” the group said. “We urge the UK government not to abandon these courageous defenders of the rule of law and — in liaison with its international allies — to offer evacuation and safety and asylum in the UK to those women judges, their families, and other members of the legal profession who are in serious danger.”
The International Association of Women Judges yesterday raised concerns about their colleagues in Afghanistan, “given the special role they have played and are still playing, in upholding the rule of law and human rights for all, and the particular dangers they face as a result”. The group fear for their safety due to the nature of their work and the past rulings they have made in criminal, anti-corruption and family courts.
Germany may need to evacuate as many as 10,000 people from Afghanistan, Chancellor Angela Merkel told party colleagues on Monday, according to party sources.
That includes 2,500 Afghan support staff as well as human rights activists, lawyers and others whom the government sees being at risk if they remain in the country after the Taliban seized Kabul.
Six years after Beijing police raided the offices and key members of the now-defunct Beijing Fengrui law firm, rights attorneys Wang Yu and Wang Quanzhang say their profession no longer really exists in the wake of a prolonged crackdown by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The July 9, 2015 raid on Fengrui and the arrests of Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang, and dozens of other rights attorneys, law firm staff, and associated activists launched a nationwide operation targeting the profession on an unprecedented scale.
Less than a decade later, attorneys who continue to take on cases deemed politically sensitive by the CCP can expect to lose their business licenses, which are subject to annual review, or are themselves detained, harassed, or sentenced to jail.
Wang Yu, who was honored by the U.S. as an International Woman of Courage (IWOC) this year, was once again held incommunicado in March after failing to attend an online award ceremony.
The award came as she and her husband Bao Longjun were assisting in the case of Niu Tengyu, who is currently serving a 14-year jail term for allegedly posting a photo of Xi Mingze, daughter of CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, to meme site Zhina Wiki, an act that was later blamed by police on Niu’s Vulgar Wiki.
She says there are still multiple restrictions on her daily life, despite having been released in the wake of the 2015 crackdown.