Adnan Şeker, a lawyer whose clients included US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, was on Thursday convicted of membership in a terrorist organization by an Ankara court and sentenced to nine years, nine months’ imprisonment, Turkish media reported.
In a press statement the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court convicted Şeker based on such evidence as using the ByLock messaging app; being a board member of Law and Life Foundation, an NGO that was shut down by a decree in the aftermath of a July 15, 2016 coup attempt; and witness testimony claiming that he organized lawyers associated with the Gülen movement.
The statement introduced Şeker as the “Lawyer of Fethullah Gülen.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
According to the statement Şeker is also being tried on other charges by Ankara 24th High Criminal Court.
Şeker denied the charges in court and said he was being tried for doing his job as a lawyer.
The Turkish government has been accused of intimidating lawyers representing clients associated with dissident groups. In a 2018 report, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) highlighted “a pattern of persecution of lawyers representing individuals accused of terrorism offenses, being associated with their clients’ cause (or alleged cause) while discharging their official functions, and consequently prosecuted for the same or related crime attributed to their client.”
According to the report 570 lawyers were jailed, and 1,480 of them have been prosecuted since the abortive 2016 coup.
The issue has been closely followed by human rights watchdogs as well. “Investigating lawyers for exercising their professional duties and representing clients accused of ‘terrorism’-related offenses threatens the very core principles of the right to a fair trial,” Amnesty International had said in a statement in October.