15-year sentences sought for lawyers on terrorism charges

A public prosecutor has sought a prison sentence of 15 years for each of 33 lawyers on charges of membership in a terrorist organization due to their alleged links to the faith-based civic Gülen movement, the T24 news website reported on Tuesday.

On Tuesday the trial of 53 defendants, 52 of whom are lawyers, continued at the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court. Among the defendants is Nurullah Albayrak, lawyer for Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement. Albayrak resides outside of Turkey.

Normally, the minimum sentence sought for alleged members of terrorist organizations is seven-and-a-half years, but the prosecutor sought the maximum sentence for the lawyers, 15 years.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on followers of the movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight as a result of which more than 150,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 50,000 others were jailed and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.

According to data compiled by independent monitoring site The Arrested Lawyers’ Initiative, 555 lawyers have been arrested since July 15, 2016 and 1,546 were under prosecution as of January 24, 2019. Two hundred sixteen lawyers have been sentenced to a total of 1,361 years in prison. Some of the arrested lawyers were reportedly subjected to torture and ill treatment. Fourteen of the detained or arrested lawyers are presidents or former presidents of provincial bar associations. 

A report titled “Incarceration of Turkish Lawyers: En Masse Arrests and Convictions (2016-2018)” previously revealed that lawyers have particularly been targeted due to the identity or affiliations of their clients. The report reminded that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has observed “a pattern of persecution of lawyers representing individuals accused of terrorism offences, where they are associated with their clients political views (or alleged political views) in the discharge of their professional duties and are consequently prosecuted for the same or other related offences of which their clients are being accused.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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