On 12 March 2020, an arrest warrant targeting thirteen lawyers was issued and several lawyers have been taken into custody in Turkey’s southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır and Urfa as part of an Urfa-based investigation. Most of the targeted lawyers are those who documented torture and ill-treatment incident took place in May of 2019 in Halfeti district of Sanliurfa province.
The houses and offices of the lawyers were raided by security forces in Diyarbakır and Urfa in early hours of morning.
Urfa Bar Association announced that its targeted members were Emin Baran, Hidayet Enmek, Sevda Çelik Ozbingol, Cemo Tüysüz, Seyhmus Inan, Metin Özbadem, Huseyin Izol. Diyarbakir Bar Association confirmed the arrests and said “Lawyers are under attack yet again. A total of ten lawyers were taken into custody with police raids to their residences and offices.”
Gürgün Kadırhan from Şırnak Bar Association, Zeynep Işık and Özkan Avcı from Diyarbakır Bar Association have also been under custody while Bahar Oktay, Osman Çelik and Mesut Beştaş are wanted.
The lawyers have been reportedly taken into custody on charge of “aiding the terrorist organization” on the ground that they allegedly facilitated contact among the inmates in prisons.
President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association: They cannot subdue defense
Speaking to bianet about the arrests, President of the Diyarbakır Bar Association Cihan Aydın has briefly stated the following:
“The occupational group facing the greatest risk in Turkey now is lawyers. The reason for that is the gradually increasing violations of rights and lawyers’ attitudes and objections to this. The more lawyers and bar associations raise their objections against unlawful practices, the more they are targeted. They are trying to subdue the defense with detentions and arrests, but all these attempts are in vain.”
President Aydin also said that for the time being they did not have any details other than that the arrests were based on a statement of a secret witness.
LAWYERS WHO DOCUMENT TORTURE HAVE BEEN TARGETED
Emma-Sinclair Webb, Turkey reporter of Human Rights Watch said “Among 9 lawyers detained in Urfa & Diyarbakir, Emin Baran & Cemo Tüysüz featured in HRW report “Lawyers on Trial”. Both were previously arbitrarily detained, prosecuted. Urfa lawyers have played strong role in documenting rights abuses, especially torture.”
Prominent journalist Amberin Zaman reported that one of the detained lawyers, Sevda Celikol Bingol, was among a group of 11 lawyers who documented the cases of some 54 men, women and children who were rounded up in Urfa’s Halfeti district and tortured after a policeman died in a terrorist attack.
On 20 November 2019, lawyer Fuat Sengul who is the member of Izmir Bar Association and Libertarian Lawyers Association (@ohdgenelmerkez) was detained with a police raid and taken to the province of Balikesir from Izmir for interrogation. Subsequently, on 21 November 2019, Mr Sengul was remanded to pretrial detention by the Balikesir Criminal Peace Judgeship. He is known as a prominent human rights activist, he prepared or contributed the preparation of several reports regarding the rights violations in prisons. The Arrested Lawyers Initiative was told that Mr Sengul was targeted by the Balikesir Prosecutor’s Office due to reports he had contributed on rights violations occurred in prisons in Balikesir.
Since 2016, there has been relentless crackdown against lawyers in Turkey. So far, more than 1650 lawyers have been prosecuted, more than 620 have been arrested and of those 334 have been sentenced to 2086 years in prison.
After 6-day police custody, all lawyers but Sevda Celik Özbingol were released under probation on 17 March 2020. However, Sevda Celik Özbingol was remanded to pretrial detention by Urfa Criminal Peace Judgeship.