The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) called today on Turkish authorities to immediately drop charges of ‘propaganda for terrorism’ against Cihan Aydın, a lawyer and former President of the Diyarbakır Bar Association.
Cihan Aydın learned that he was the subject of a criminal investigation on May 26, apparently based on a statement of the Women Rights Centre of the Diyarbakir Bar Association in 2019 calling for an end to Turkish military action in Syria and calling for diplomatic resolution of the conflict.
Aydın, the President of Diyarbakır Bar Association until April 2021, is known for his human rights litigation and advocacy before domestic courts as well as the European Court of Human Rights including in high-profile and sensitive cases.
The charges amount to an unjustified interference with freedom of expression, the ICJ said.
“This criminal investigation is yet another case of the misuse of criminal proceedings to attack lawyers and human rights defenders in Turkey,” said Roisin Pillay, ICJ’s Europe and Central Asia Director. “The charge against Cihan Aydin of propaganda for terrorism, based on a call for peace by an institution within the Bar Association, is clearly arbitrary, in violation of freedom of political expression, and should be dropped. The criminal law should never be applied to suppress a call on the government to pursue a peaceful solution to conflict.”
Turkey has obligations under international human rights law, including under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to uphold freedom of expression, which can only be restricted to the extent strictly necessary and proportionate to a legitimate aim. Speech on matters of public interest, including political debate or criticism of government policy, must be particularly protected. Moreover, under Article 20 of the ICCPR, states have a duty to protect against war propaganda, and that duty is likely to be undermined if a state seeks to prohibit and punish views that may be critical of war.
On 26 May 2021, Aydin was requested to give his statement about the accusation of “propaganda for terrorism”.
This prosecution follows other investigations against the Diyabakir Bar Association: following a statement about the statement on Armenian Genocide and a statement denouncing the Head of Religious Affairs Directorate for his comments about LGBTI.
The ICJ has extensively documented government persecution of lawyers in Turkey as well as improper restrictions on freedom of expression:
- Expert opinion by the International Commission of Jurists in trial for hate speech against Turkish Medical Association
- ICJ and IHOP Joint Statement on Access to Justice in Turkey
- Press Statements on undue detention and prosecutions of lawyers here and here (add lings: criminal charges, detention of lawyers, representing clients, death of lawyer
- ICJ and HRW Statement on reform of the legal profession
- ICJ UPR Submission
- ICJ Report, Justice Suspended