The ICJ called today on the Public Prosecutor Office of Istanbul to drop criminal charges and investigations against the President and Board Members of the Istanbul Bar Association for having publicly displayed a photograph of lawyer Ebru Timtik, who died following a hunger strike while in detention.
“These charges have been brought as a direct result of the lawyers’ exercise of their freedom of expression,” said Massimo Frigo, Senior Legal Adviser with the ICJ Europe and Central Asia Programme. “ They should be dropped immediately.”
On 21 September, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul notified to the 11 members of the board of the Istanbul Bar Association, including its President Mehmet Durakoğlu, that they were under criminal investigation.
The charges are not yet known but it is confirmed that the investigation concerns their hanging of a large picture of lawyer Ebru Timtik out of the window of the Istanbul Bar Association’s headquarters.
Lawyer Ebru Timtik died last 27 August on the 238th day of her hunger strike, while in detention on remand. She was a lawyer in the Progressive Lawyers Association and was under trialto answer to the unfounded accusation of being a member of a terrorist organisation. She undertook the hunger strike to protest against these accusations, which are often used in Turkey to silence political opposition and human rights defenders.
Following the bar association’s display of Ebru Timtik’s photograph, Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu targeted the İstanbul Bar, saying, “I strongly condemn the ones who hung the photograph of a terrorist organization member on the İstanbul Bar Association.” Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül also said, “It is unacceptable that the bar association has become a backyard for illegal and marginal structures.” President Erdoğan also stated in the opening speech of the new legal year that “In the next period, we will do what is necessary to cut the bloody road extending from being attorneys to terrorists.”
“It is particularly worrying that these investigations were triggered after statements by the Minister of the Interior and the President, besmirching the legitimate work of lawyers and bar associations as linked to ‘terrorism,” added Massimo Frigo.
The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers state:
18. Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.
23. Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.
24. Lawyers shall be entitled to form and join self-governing professional associations to represent their interests, promote their continuing education and training and protect their professional integrity. The executive body of the professional associations shall be elected by its members and shall exercise its functions without external interference.
Massimo Frigo, Senior Legal Adviser, e: massimo.frigo(a)icj.org, t: +41797499949; twitter: @maxfrigoNewsWeb stories