Voices of Solidarity Association (Stimmen der Solidarität) held its 110th Justice Vigil in Cologne, Germany on Wednesday to raise awareness of the plight of imprisoned lawyers in Turkey and draw attention to the human rights violations occurring within the country’s prison system.
The association called on the Turkish government to respect the rule of law and protect the rights of lawyer and pointed to the crackdown on lawyers that began ahead of the May elections in the country and has since intensified.
Lawyers in Turkey are targeted under anti-terror laws, which are unpredictable and lacking in legal quality according to the European Court of Human Rights.
Between 2016 and 2022, at least 1,638 lawyers have faced investigations, 903 have been arrested, and 665 have been sent to prison to await trial, according to Weltanwälte, a group of lawyers from Turkey who live in Germany. By January 2022, at least 181 lawyers were still behind bars, while another 40 had outstanding arrest warrants.
Among lawyers in prisons are Can Atalay, a current member of parliament from the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP), and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and former MP Ayla Akat.
Violations extend to prisoners with severe health conditions, whom the authorities could release to receive treatment but most often don’t, the activists also pointed out at the vigil.
Another issue many prisoners face is refusal of parole rights. One example is the case of Nevzat Öztürk, who has been in prison for over 31 years in Turkey. His daughter Jiyan said Öztürk’s parole was not granted over excuses such as failing to conserve electricity and not checking out enough books from the prison library.
Cologne City Council Member Jörg Detjen was present at the vigil, where he drew attention to the deteriorating health of Nahid Taghavi, a German citizen detained in Iran since October 2020. Detjen called for her immediate release.