According to data compiled by ‘Arrested Lawyers Initiative’, 301 lawyers are currently in jail and arrest warrants have been issued by courts about more than 100 lawyers in Turkey. Moreover, 702 lawyers are currently under legal investigation.
Turkish state under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and AKP government have conducted a relentless campaign against lawyers since failed coup attempt in July 15, 2016. Arrest and detention frenzy have targeted legal defenders beside of other professional across the country. Numbers of lawyers have been detained or arrested in 68 out of Turkey’s 81 provinces. All arrested lawyers have faced with the same accusations of allegedly belonging to a terror group and attempting to overthrow the government.
According to “Arrested Lawyers Initiative’, what is troubling more is the fact that the courts that issued detention warrants also ordered to freeze assets of lawyers, thwarting them from supporting their families.
Among the arrested lawyers there are many prominent figures well-known in Turkish legal circles. The list of arrested lawyers includes current or former presidents of bar associations in various provinces. Head of 10 local or regional bar associations are currently in jail. The names of the heads of Bar Associations are given as follows:
Orhan Öngöz (President of the Trabzon Bar) was arrested while he was still president; Mehmet Cemal Acar (President of the Siirt Bar ) was arrested while he was president; İsmail Taştan (President of the Gumushane – Bayburt Regional Bar) was arrested, then released; Fevzi Kayacan (President of the Konya Bar) was arrested while he was still president; Mehmet Güzel (Former President of the Erzurum Bar) was arrested, Zeynel Balkız (Former President of the Manisa Bar) was arrested; Cemalettin Özer (Former President of the Erzincan Bar) was detained; Levent Bozkurt (President of the Aksaray) was detained and released. He was detained while he was president; Haci İbiş (Former President of the Yozgat Bar) was detained and released; Fahri Açıkgöz (Former President of the Yozgat Bar) was detained and released.
During their interrogations the detained and the arrested lawyers have been asked to share confidential information about their clients. Police and prosecutors have demanded information from detained and arrested lawyers by asking questions such as “How the client contacted with them?”, “Why did they make public statements on behalf of their clients?”, “what was the motivation to mount a rigorous defense on behalf of the clients?”
“Arrested Lawyers Initiative’ has also claimed that arbitrary mass arrests and detentions targeting lawyers have been followed by torture and ill-treatment. Moreover, Turkish government has targeted Turkish lawyers’ right to association. Since the declaration of the emergency rule 29 lawyers’ associations have been shut down by the government. All assets of these associations have been also seized without compensation.
The indictment about majority of arrested lawyers have not been written yet and they are spending time in Turkish jails without any court hearing. Furthermore, for those who have already been indicted, long prison sentences have been sought by prosecutors.
After sharing data on persecuted lawyers, “Arrested Lawyers Initiative’ has called their international colleagues, rights defenders and advocacy groups to show solidarity with arrested lawyers by speaking up against the systematic attacks on them by Turkish government to end these arbitrary and systematic persecutions.