18 lawyers sentenced to over 159 years in jail

Eighteen out of 20 members of the suspended left-wing lawyers’ associations, Association of Progressive Lawyers (CHD) and People’s Law Office (HHB) have been sentenced to prison.

An Istanbul criminal court has sentenced the lawyers with varying years ranging from three years to 18 years and 9 months, according to a news report by Evrensel daily.

Turkey deems Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), a Turkish Marxist-Leninist Party, an armed terrorist organization. And the lawyers were convicted of leadership/membership of the organization and aid and abet.

Except two, none of the defendants and their attorneys, including those on hunger strike demanding a fair trial, attended the last court session set for 19-20 March.

The courtroom, however, was packed by relatives of the detainees, several observers including lawyers from European Democratic Lawyers (AED), European Association of Lawyers for Democracy (ELDH) and Milena Buyum, Amnesty International’s Turkey campaigner and about a hundred gendarmeries.

According to Evrensel, despite the counterclaims by participants, the meritorious defenses were heard in absentia of the lawyers. The court also rejected the recusal that was demanded a day earlier.

After the break, the court announced the prison sentences amounting to 159 years and 2 months. While the court condemned Barkin Timtik to 18 years 9 months for the leadership of an armed terrorist organization, it punished 11 lawyers for membership of an armed terrorist organization and six lawyers for aiding the terrorist organization willingly and deliberately.

After the hearing, however, lawyers lambasted everything about the lawsuit. Abdullah Oncel, Chair of Sanliurfa Bar Association, asserted the principles of fair trial and presumption of innocence were violated during the trial process.

To Gokmen Yesil, the head of CHD’s Istanbul Branch, the judges were more of officers assigned to announce pre-decided verdicts than justice.

“Deviating from humanist criminal law, the court applied the law of the enemy,” said Mahmut Tanal, a former lawyer and lawmaker from the main opposition party (CHP).

Slamming the judges, Nergis Tuba Aslan, CHD’s secretary-general, said: “As the defendants articulated during the trial, the judges had nothing to do with the law.”

Most of the lawyers in the lawsuit, dubbed the CHD case, were detained in September 2017, about a year after the CHD and HHB were suspended with an emergency decree.

Seventeen lawyers were released in September 2018 but following the prosecutor’s objection, five of them were re-detained and sent to prisons in different cities. Meanwhile, the judges hearing the case were changed.

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