Diyarbakır Bar Association was founded in 1927. In parallel to the authoritarian tendencies of the period, the number of investigations and lawsuits against the bar association directors increase. They are targeted for their statements and the reports they draft. The former chair of the bar association Tahir Elçi was killed on November 28, 2015, during a press statement in front of the Sheikh Matar Mosque in Sur, Diyarbakır. There is a ongoing lawsuit against the Bar Association.
In the subsequent years to the murder of Elçi, the investigations concerning the complaints filed to the former Başbakanlık İletişim Merkezi (BİMER- Prime Ministry Communication Center) cover the activities of the bar association between the years 2016-2018, including the press statements and reports on the condition of human rights within the legal, political and social context of the period.
One of these investigations is over a declaration in 2017 titled “April 24 / Meds Yeghern: We share the unmitigated great sorrow of Armenian People”. On December 1, 2019 the Batman Heavy Penal Court has ruled that a lawsuit shall be filed against the former Chair and the executive board members of the Diyarbakır Bar Association. They will be tried as per Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) for “openly inciting the public to enmity and hatred and degrading the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM)“. Ministry of Justice gave permission for an investigation under the accusation that the Diyarbakır Bar Association has “publicly degraded Turkish nation, state and institutions” in the following incidents:
- Their statement: “Punishing for pronouncing ‘Kurdistan’ is shameful”; regarding the sentence the former HDP MP Osman Baydemir received for his remarks at the parliament according to the Grand National Assembly Bylaws; and,
- Their report on civilian deaths and injuries from attacks by armed unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) in Kanireş neighborhood, Oğul village in the province of Hakkari.
By the end of December 2019, court has ruled that a lawsuit shall be filed against the former Chair and the executive board members of the Diyarbakır Bar Association also about these investigations.
Between the years 2016-2018 Diyarbakır Bar Association Chair Başkanı Ahmet Özmen and Board of Directors of the period Mahsum Batı, Nurşin Uysal, Cihan Ülsen, Sertaç Buluttekin, Neşet Girasun, Serhat Eren, İmran Gökdere, Velat Alan, Ahmet Dağ and Nahit Eren will stand trial.
The Bar Association was publicly targeted by the Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu. The bar association and its executive board was accused of “making propaganda on behalf of the organization” and “being the spokesperson of a terrorist organization” without any proof, witness or legal grounds.
In the meantime, Diyarbakır Bar Association was nominated for two important prizes for their efforts to protect human rights. They received the International Hrant Dink Prize in 2016 and the International Ludovic Trarieux Human Rights Special Mention of the Jury in 2018.
On 28 April 2020, Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation against the executives of Diyarbakır Bar over their statement on President of Religious Affairs’ targeting remarks about LGBTI+ people. The Diyarbakır Bar previously issued a statement entitled “Press Release Regarding the Hate Speech of President of Religious Affairs Ali Erbaş.”
The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Diyarbakır has launched an investigation against Diyarbakır Bar executives over this statement on the ground that they degraded the religious values adopted by a certain section of the society as per the Article 216/3 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).
The Article 216/3 of the TCK stipulates the following: “A person who publicly degrades the religious values of a section of the public shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of six months to one year, where the act is capable of disturbing public peace.”
In his Friday sermon (khutbah) on April 24, President of Religious Affairs Ali Erbaş targeted LGBTI+s and the ones living with HIV.
The second hearing of the trial opened against 11 lawyers on the grounds of the 24 April commemoration statements published in 2017 and 2018 with the claim of TCK 301 and “inciting the people to hatred and enmity” was held on 18 November 2020 at Diyarbakır 13th High Criminal Court. Due to the small size of the courtroom of Diyarbakır 13th High Criminal Court, the hearing was held in the courtroom of Diyarbakır 6th High Criminal Court, which is the largest hall of the courthouse. Hundreds of lawyers came to the courtroom in robes to support their colleagues on trial. Journalists who came to watch the hearing were taken to the hall after being searched by the police at the entrance of the hall. During the hearing, which lasted about four hours, the statements of seven lawyers were taken, and the case was postponed to February 17, 2021 to take the statements of four lawyers.
In the meantime, another lawsuit was filed against the President of the Bar Association, Cihan Aydın, and 10 members of the Board of Directors, demanding imprisonment up to 2 years, citing the April 24 statement in 2019. They are accused of “Humiliating Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, state institutions and their organs”.
The fourth hearing of the case filed on the grounds of the April 24 commemorative statements in 2017 and 2018, the statement “Kurdistan” and the report prepared by the Bar Association on the Armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (SİHA) operation in Hakkari was held on 17 February 2021. The court, in order for the defendant’s lawyers to prepare their defense on their request for the lack of a prosecution requirement regarding a statement shown as criminal evidence in the indictment; decided to give a time until the next session and set the date for the next hearing as 25 June 2021.
The 47th Ordinary General Assembly of the Diyarbakır Bar Association was held on 10-11 April 2021 and Nahit Eren was elected president. The Diyarbakır chief prosecutor’s office launched a new investigation against the new chairman and board members on April 26, 2021, regarding the April 24 statement. They are once again accused of “Humiliating Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, state institutions and their organs“.