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Defence of the defenders: European lawyers urge the Turkish government to end the persecution of lawyers

On 5 April, on the occasion of Lawyers’ Day in Turkey, the CCBE and nearly 40 lawyers’ organisations and Bars/Law Societies issued a joint statement on the situation of lawyers in Turkey. These organisations strongly condemn the ongoing persecution of lawyers in Turkey and urge the Turkish government to release all lawyers who have been unduly detained for carrying out their professional activities.

Since the Turkish government declared a state of emergency after the failure of the coup d’état on 15 July 2016, the persecution of lawyers has intensified. Since July 2016, 1546 lawyers have been prosecuted, nearly 600 lawyers have been arrested and 274 lawyers have been sentenced to long prison terms - the average duration being seven years. These lawyers, who are simply trying to carry out their professional activities, are often prosecuted, arrested and sentenced on alleged terrorism-related charges which, according to the Turkish Penal Code, carry a sentence of seven and a half to twenty years’ imprisonment. 

The Statement recalls that this is a clear violation of several European and International legal instruments, such as the Council of Europe Recommendation on the freedom of exercise of the profession of lawyer, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

On 10 April, Human Rights Watch published a report on the situation entitled “Lawyers on Trial: Abusive Prosecutions and Erosion of Fair Trial Rights in Turkey” which contains several recommendations addressed to the Turkish Government, to the Union of Turkish Bar Associations and Provincial Bar Associations, the European Union and Member States plus Norway, to the Council of Europe, to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and to the Bar Associations and Lawyers’ Associations in Europe, Canada and the US.