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Joint Statement: Release Arrested Rights Defenders, Lawyers, and CSO Representatives
20/11/2020, 16:04

Today, on 20 November 2020, numerous rights defenders, lawyers, and CSO representatives were taken into custody in Diyarbakır and nearby cities following morning raids to their homes within the scope of investigation no. 2019/63324 initiated by Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The grounds for these arrests were reported to pertain to charges within the scope of an investigation into the Democratic Society Congress, which has almost become routine.

Among those arrested are the co-chairperson of Lawyers for Freedom Association, Atty. Bünyamin Şeker; Human Rights Association’s Adıyaman Branch chairperson Atty. Bülent Temel; members of Lawyers for Freedom Association and Human Rights Association attorneys Abdülkadir Güleç, Eshat Aktaç, Serdar Talay, İmran Gökdere, Diyar Çetedir, Serdar Özer, Feride Laçin, Gamze Yalçın, Gevriye Atlı, Resul Tamur, Cemile Turhallı Balsak, Ahmet Kalpak, Devrim Barış Baran, Neşet Girasun, Sedat Aydın, Mahsum Batı, Şivan Cemil Özen, and Haknas Sadak. Further, former central council member and current honors board member of the Turkish Medical Association, Dr. Şeyhmus Gökalp; social worker and employee at the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey’s Diyarbakır representative office, Serkan Delidere; MED Federation of Prisoners’ Families’ Legal and Solidarity Associations (TUHAD-FED) executive Diyar Dilek Özer and federation member Leyla Ayaz; DİVES member Süleyman Okur, Bağlar municipality assembly member Panayır Çelik; former executive at HDP’s Diyarbakır office İlhami Yürek; SES member Ümit Çetinkaya, HABER-SEN member Mehmet Kaçar were also taken into custody today.

Article 145 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) prescribes summons for interviews. Failing to interview persons through summons under Article 145 of the CCP during the process of an investigation like the one into the Democratic Society Congress, within the scope of which almost thousands of people face investigations and prosecution, but to raid their homes early in the morning following arrest warrants is a typical instance of judicial harassment.

Almost all those arrested are lawyers and CSO representatives involved in a struggle for rights and justice. While these persons could willingly appear for interviews upon summons, failure to do so reveals the fact that the political power’s pressure on democratic institutions is exerted through the judiciary. In spite of the particular fact that lawyers are a part of the judiciary and represent the defense is well known, their arrest also reveals the trivialization of the right to defense and a will to rob citizens of defense.

Although the Minister of Justice has just reminded deputies of the provisions of the CCP during the budget deliberations, and warned public prosecutors and judges to this end while underlining the fact that pre-trial detention should be an exception but release pending trial should be the rule; judicial practices undertaken along the axis of some pro-security mentality cannot be accepted. Despite the political power’s claims of a will for legal reforms, prosecutors’ offices’ willingness to maintain their old habits should be prevented. Legal reforms should not end up in impunity, restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms, harassment and arrest of rights defenders.

As per the provisions set forth in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, such treatment against the executives and members of rights and legal organizations involved in democratic activities is also a breach of the declaration.

We ask the authorities to immediately release those who are arrested.

Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, Rights Initiative Association, Human Rights AssociationHuman Rights Agenda Association, Human Rights Foundation of TurkeyCitizens’ Assembly

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