Turkish court rules for release of 17 lawyers from pre-trial detention

A Turkish court on Friday ruled for the release of 17 lawyers, most of whom have been imprisoned since September 2017 on accusations of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

İstanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court held the sixth hearing in the trial of 20 lawyers on Friday.

According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), all lawyers standing trial are members of left-wing lawyers’ association the Association of Progressive Lawyers (ÇHD) and the People’s Law Office (HBB), which is known for its efforts against state repression and focuses on political processes across the country.

Seventeen of the lawyers have been in custody since September and November 2017. The court ordered the release of the lawyers but imposed a ban on international travel. The trial was adjourned until February 19, 2019.

Among the lawyers released is ÇHD chairman Selçuk Kozağaçlı, who was arrested in November 2017. He had been arrested on the same charge in 2013 and released after the charges were dropped a year later.

The ÇHD, which was established in 1974 and is a member of the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH), was closed about two years ago by a government decree under a state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has prosecuted 1,546 lawyers on overbroad charges based on questionable accusations that preclude the right to a defense; 585 lawyers remain under arrest, and 169 lawyers have been sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to 12 years, according to data compiled by the Arrested Lawyers Initiative.

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