Turkish lawyers demand parliament to include jailed colleagues under prison release 

Turkish lawyers have called on parliament to release their colleagues who are jailed over political charges amid the ongoing parliamentary talks on a prison release bill.

The bill is expected to free around 45,000 prisoners temporarily and another estimated 45,000 permanently.

The lawyers released video footage on Twitter hashtags #HerkesİçinAdalet (Justice for Everyone) and #AdaletNöbeti (Justice Watch), voicing the demands for the release of political prisoners in the country.

“Nobody is free if a single [innocent] individual is not free. The lawyers should immediately be released. Speak out the lawyers’ freedom outcry. [You! The lawmakers!] Hear the lawyers’ voice and release them!” the lawyers said in the video.

The prisoner release law which was prepared in cooperation between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice,  the Development Party (AKP) and its nationalist ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has been discussed in parliament in an attempt to ease overcrowding in jails and protect detainees from the coronavirus breakout.

The draft law has been criticized by many as it excludes people jailed on terrorism charges following the 2016 failed military coup against Erdogan, while it foresees the release of thousands of public offenders.

In late  February 25 Turkish bar associations released a statement saying Turkey had become one of the biggest jailers of lawyers in the world.

Going through “the gravest judicial crisis” in its history and experiencing “a democracy crisis”, Turkey had been handing heavy decisions down to lawyers who are just doing what their profession necessitates, the bar said.

“The reality of today’s Turkey reflects a country where our colleagues [lawyers] have to stage hunger strikes to demand a fair trial,” the lawyers said.

A group of eight lawyers from the Contemporary Lawyers Association (CHD), who were given lengthy jail sentences, have been on a hunger strike in prison since February 3.

The CHD lawyers were arrested in September 2018 over terror charges. The CHD has since been shut down.

“Our children [lawyers] should be released. [You! The lawmakers!] Let them live. Some [of our lawyer colleagues] were given sentences up to 159 years since they just performed their profession. They are jailed as they advocate justice. Now, they are voicing their demands for justice through death fasts,” said one of the supporter social media account.

Nesrin Nas, a former political party leader and an academician, also called on the public to hear the outcry of the lawyers and support them in their struggle.

“If we do not hear their [the lawyers’] voice today, there will be nobody [available] tomorrow [in the future] to advocate our rights,” Nas tweeted.

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