Thirty-one attorneys were arrested in İstanbul on Monday as part of Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting the alleged members of the faith-based Gülen movement, which is accused by Turkish authorities of being behind a failed coup last summer.
According to a pro-government Karar daily story, 31 lawyers were arrested by an İstanbul court while 14 others were released pending trial as part of an investigation in which 78 lawyers were detained for use of the ByLock smartphone application. Thirty-three other lawyers remain in pre-trial detention, Karar said.
Turkish authorities consider ByLock to be the top communication tool among the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for allegedly using ByLock since a failed and controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Critics say the use of a technological application is not a criminal activity nor is it evidence of membership in a terrorist organization.
A letter sent by Turkey’s Security Directorate General to all police units in the country last October told police officers to obtain confessions from individuals who had been detained due to their use of ByLock because mere use of the application is not considered a crime.
On June 2, 2017, 22 lawyers were also detained by police and later arrested by a court in İzmir province including Amensty International’s Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç.
Turkish government have issued sweeping arrest warrants against more than 1100 lawyers within last 11 months on what is believed to be a part of crackdown on critics and opponents of Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan and his government.
So far about 500 lawyers including prominent criminal law attorneys and heads of provincial Bar Associations were formally arrested while many were forced to self-exile to avoid torture and ill treatment in jails. The government also purged at least 108 academics including famous law professors from law schools of public universities and fired over 100 government lawyers en masse.
What is more, the authorities also ordered the seizure of all assets of lawyers who faced an arrest although they were not convicted of any crime and there was no indictment filed and no trial hearing held yet. The seizure of assets has deprived family members of their livelihood while lawyers are left languishing behind bars in long pre-trial detentions.
A comprehensive report, whic was released by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) titled “Turkey’s descent into arbitrariness: The end of rule of law” , provides detailed information on how the rule of law has lost meaning in Turkish context, confirming the effective collapse of all domestic judicial and administrative remedies available for Turkish citizens who lodge complaints on rights violations.
It lists many recent cases showing the ways in which President Erdoğan and his associates in the government manipulates judiciary through loyalists and partisans. An unprecedented intimidation campaign against independent judges and prosecutors including unlawful arrests and arbitrary assets seizures was pursued by political authorities.
In addition to jailing thousands of judges and prosecutors, Turkey has also imprisoned hundreds of human rights defenders and lawyers, making extremely difficult for detainees to access to a lawyer in violation of a due process and fair trial protections under the Turkish Code on Criminal Procedures.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting participants of the Gülen movement in jails.
At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency by basing on information taken from the officials from Turkey’s Justice Minsitry on June 13. (SCF with turkishminute.com) June 19, 2017