Istanbul Regional Appeal Court has upheld the Istanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court’s judgment dated 20 March 2019 which condemned eighteen lawyers to a 159-year prison term in total.
The lawyers who were sentenced to more than 5 years still have right to lodge an appeal with the Court of Cassation. For those who sentenced to less than five years judgment of the Regional Appeal Court is final.
The court ruled that the detention of lawyers Barkın Timtik, Behiç Aşcı, Selçuk Kozağaçlı, Engin Gökoğlu, Aytaç Ünsal and Aycan Çiçek to continue as per Articles 100/3 and 104/3 of the Law of Criminal Procedure, considering “the amount of penalty, the period they spent under arrest and the nature of the offense they are charged with.”
Background of the case
In the trial of the 20 lawyers, with six of them being under arrest, the three hearings of the sequential hearings were held between March 18 and March 20.
The court has announced its verdict without taking the lawyers’ defenses as to the accusations.
18 lawyers were sentenced to some 160 years in prison by Istanbul 37th Assize Court under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code which stipulates the armed terrorist organization. Sentences given to lawyers as follows:
- Barkın Timtik: 19 years
- Ebru Timtik and Özgür Yılmaz : 13,5 years
- Behiç Aşçı and Sukriye Erden: 12 years
- Suleyman Gokten, Selçuk Kozağaçlı, Aytaç Ünsal and Engin Gökoğlu: 10.5 years
- Aycan Çiçek and Naciye Demir: 9 years
- Ezgi Cakir: 8 years
- Ayşegül Çağatay and Yağmur Ereren: 3 years 9 months
- Didem Baydar Ünsal, Yaprak Türkmen, Ahmet Mandacı, Zehra Özdemir: 3 years 2 months.
Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation consists of two separate laws: the Turkish Penal Code (5237) (“TPC”) and Anti-Terrorism Law (3713). Many articles of the Anti-Terrorism Law were rescinded but article 5, which is still in force, stipulates the aggravation of the terrorism-related sentences by half.
Sub-section 1 (Article 314/1) of Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code criminalises the establishment and/or commanding an armed terrorist organisation, and the subsection 2 (Article 314/2)  criminalises the membership to an armed organisation. Under the Turkish Penal Code, these two offences carry the penalty of 7.5 to 22.5 years imprisonment.
According to the survey by the Arrested Lawyers Initiative carried out on the Turkish Justice Ministry’s statistics of their operations in the last six years, there is a steady increase in the use of anti-terrorism law on individuals by public prosecutors. Statistics highlight that Turkey has indicted 337,722 people with the charges of being member or leader of an armed terrorist organization within last six years.
Turkish lawyers have been subjected to a relentless crackdown since 2016 July. 1,546 lawyers have been prosecuted, 599 have been arrested, and in some cases subjected to torture and ill-treatment in Turkey, just because of practicing their duty as the defence in the legal mechanism. So far, Turkey have sentenced 321 lawyers to 2021 years in prison.
Silencing lawyers abolishes the most important safeguards against torture. Victim lawyers are members of the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD) and People’s Law Bureau (HHB) which were Turkey’s the most prominent NGOs on fighting against torture. The Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD) were dissolved on November 2016 after Mr. Kozagacli revealed (during the Ankara Bar Association’s general assembly) on 16th October 2016 that people imprisoned as part of a government crackdown on the Gülen movement are being systematically tortured in the most barbaric ways including rape, removal of nails and the insertion of objects into their anuses.
“They remove the nails of colleagues [during detention] at police stations. Believe me; I saw people who underwent a colostomy after they were tortured with objects inserted into their anuses in prison and police stations,” said Kozağaçlı.