Turkey persecutes 20 lawyers between 2 and 11 years of prison sentences over alleged Gülen links

Turkish government persecuted 20 lawyers, who have been in prison for 15 months, on Friday with prison sentences between 2 and 11 years of prison sentences over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The Arrested Lawyers Initiative has reported that former head of Konya Bar Association is also among the persecuted lawyers.

According to the report, thus, the members of Konya Bar Association have been the first victims of the systematic crackdown against lawyers carried out by Turkish government as part of its massive post-coup witch hunt targeting the alleged members of the Gülen movement.

In wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the detention warrants were issued for 45 lawyers who were affiliated with the Konya Bar Association including the association’s president Fevzi Kayacan on July 21, 2016. Police detained them and 20 lawyers were arrested by a local court.

At their first hearing on August 2, 2017, prosecutor demanded 38 lawyers to be convicted of terror-related crimes and seven lawyers to acquit. Konya 6th High Criminal Court has sentenced 20 lawyers range to 2 and 11 years imprisonment on Friday.

According to the verdict of the court lawyer Fevzi Kayacan was sentenced to 10 years and 6 months of imprisonment; lawyers Berat Alper Kösterik, Erhan Şahin, Osman Buğur, Ahmet Bal, Mehmet Yıldırım, Mehmet Şimşek, Özgür Solak were sentences to 9 years of imprisonment; lawyers Arif Özer, Veysel Köylü, Erdal Soydaş, Hatice Erdem were sentenced to 7 years 6 months of imprisonment; lawyers Nihat Karahan, Elşad Mehmethanlı, Hasan Hüseyin Avcı were sentenced to 6 years 3 months of imprisonment; lawyers İbrahim Bakım, Ramazan Arı, Mehmet Balta, Orhan Özkavak, Muhammed Tahra were sentenced to imprisonment between 2 and 4 years.

The court has also decided to remand lawyers Fevzi Kayacan, Berat Alper Kösterik, Erhan Şahin, Osman Buğur, Ahmet Bal, Mehmet Yıldırım, Mehmet Şimşek, Özgür Solak despite they have been in jail for 16 months.

According to data compiled by the independent monitoring site The Arrested Lawyers’ Initiative, 555 lawyers have been arrested since July 15, 2016 and 1415 lawyers have been under prosecution as of October 27, 2017. It was reported that some of the arrested lawyers were subjected torture and ill-treatment. 14 of detained or arrested lawyers are the presidents or former presidents of provincial bars associations.

Former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on May 2017 said more than 4,000 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed from judicial body over links to the Gülen movement and that none of the remaining judges and prosecutors have been left uninvestigated. However, according to the t24 news website, the government has dismissed 4,238 of Turkey’s 14,661 judges and prosecutors since July 15.

A comprehensive report 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.

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 controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch the ruling 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 them in custody.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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