Court denies release of lawyers on hunger strike despite medical report, citing flight risk

Ebru Timtik and Aytac Unsal
Lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal

An İstanbul court has refused to release lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal, who have been on a hunger strike since April 5 in support of their demand for a fair trial, despite a medical report issued by the İstanbul Council of Forensic Medicine that said they should not remain in prison.

The lawyers for Timtik and Ünsal applied to the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court for their release based on the report, but the court denied the request, citing the existence of a flight risk and their conviction on terrorism-related charges. Instead, the court decided to ask the public prosecutor’s office to provide immediate medical care for Timtik and Ünsal in a hospital.

Timtik and Ünsal have been in prison since September 12, 2018, on charges of membership in the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

On March 20, 2019 the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court sentenced Timtik to 13 years, six months and Ünsal to 10 years, six months. According to the ruling the two were accused of “communicating the organization’s messages to captured members and acting as couriers.” Their cases are currently before Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals. Their case was based on the testimony of a secret witness who has been used by the prosecution in a variety of cases.

Last month the secret witness, İ.Ö., sent a petition to Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals and said his testimony should not be taken into consideration due to his mental problems, including hallucinations. The petition was submitted by İ.Ö.’s attorney and included medical reports that support his claim.

İ.Ö. had previously informed on his father, claiming that he had come into contact with the DHKP/C through him. In a letter he once said he has been a witness in DHKP-C related cases since 2008. He has been in prison for 13 years and was convicted of buying, carrying and possessing unlicensed firearms and ammunition, causing bodily injury and looting.

The two lawyers had taken on important cases such as a mining disaster in Soma that took the lives of 301 miners; the death of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who was hit on the head with a tear-gas canister fired by a police officer during the June 2013 anti-government protests in Turkey that are known as the Gezi protests; and the death of Engin Çeber in prison due to torture.

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