Representatives of lawyers’ associations read out statements in Istanbul on Tuesday on the occasion of Lawyers’ Day in Turkey, stating that the 5 April cannot be a day of celebration while so many lawyers are incarcerated solely over their professional activities.
According to a report released in December 2021 by the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, more than 1,600 lawyers were detained and prosecuted while 615 lawyers were under pre-trial arrest in Turkey since 2016. Subsequently, 474 lawyers were sentenced to a total prison term of 2,966 years in prison on the grounds of membership of an armed terrorist organisation, or of spreading terrorist propaganda.
Esra Erin, the co-chair of Free Lawyers’ Association’s Istanbul branch said:
“Hundreds of our colleagues are in jail solely due to their professional activities. We refuse to accept the 5th of April as a day for celebration while our imprisoned colleagues are not free and among us. We have been visiting them in prison. Through their determination to stand against injustices and to carry on with their work even in their prison cells, they have reminded us yet again that a lawyer does not perform only in the courthouse, and that this is a profession to be performed practically anywhere as a rights struggle.”
“A lawyer’s title is not just something that we lawyers can be stripped of. We carry on the struggle of Fuat Erdoğan, Faik Candan, Şefik Epözdemir and Medet Serhat who were killed in the 1990s, of Tahir Elçi who was killed in 2015, of Ebru Timtik who went on hunger strike for the right to fair trial on 5 April 2020 and who lost her life on 27 August 2020.”