Turkish lawyer on hunger strike for 238 days demanding fair trial dies

Ebru Timtik

Ebru Timtik, a Turkish lawyer who has been on a hunger strike for 238 days in support of her demand for a fair trial, died yesterday in an İstanbul hospital.

Despite a medical report issued by the İstanbul Council of Forensic Medicine that said she should not remain in prison, an İstanbul court had refused to release Timtik last month, citing the existence of a flight risk and her conviction on terrorism-related charges. Instead, the court asked the public prosecutor’s office to provide immediate medical care for Timtik in a hospital.

Timtik had been in prison since September 12, 2018 on charges of membership in the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C). She was accused of “communicating the organization’s messages to captured members and acting as a courier.” The case was based on the testimony of a secret witness who has been used by the prosecution in a variety of cases. The DHKP/C 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. Her case was awaiting review by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle Turkish service about the case, Istanbul Bar Association President Mehmet Durakoğlu had said there was no concrete evidence and that the entire case was based on the testimony of a secret witness who was used by the prosecution in a variety of cases. Durakoğlu said the judge went so far as to remind the secret witness of some of the “facts” about the case. He said the witness thanked the judge in return, saying, “Good thing you reminded me.”

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.

In June, 22 international bar associations had asked Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals to order the release of lawyers Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal. The associations had submitted to the court the final report of a fact-finding mission on the trials of 18 members of the Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD) including Timtik.

Timtik 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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