5 November 2012
For immediate release
A delegation of several prominent lawyers from the UK has arrived today in Turkey to observe a major anti-terror trial in Istanbul.
The delegation, which includes international human rights lawyers Margaret Owen OBE, Melanie Gingell, Bronwen Jones, and Ali Has as well as Tony Fisher, the chair of the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee, will spend three days observing the lawyers’ trial on 6 November and meeting with members of the defendants’ legal team.
On trial in this landmark case are 36 lawyers who have been charged with terrorism-related offences. The Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), which the lawyers are accused of being members of, is considered to the ‘urban wing’ of the prohibited PKK.
Dozens of international lawyers and members of bar associations who observed the first hearings of this case in July, have expressed grave concern over the legality of the trial.
As Tony Fisher states, “It is incredibly important that the international legal community shows it support for the Kurdish lawyers to ensure that proper respect is given to their right to a fair trial and to their right to practice their profession without interference by the state. I am delighted to be representing the Human Rights Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales on this mission.”
As all of the lawyers were members of the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s legal defence team, the lawyers stand accused of ‘membership’ or ‘support’ of terrorism, for defending their client’s rights in what is a highly politically sensitive case.
This trial is one of several on-going mass political trials in Turkey in relation to the KCK investigations. Turkey’s widely criticised and dangerously broad anti-terror legislation has led to around 10,000 Kurds being arrested since April 2009 and charged with membership of the KCK, including elected Kurdish deputies, local mayors and councillors, journalists, trade unionists, students and prominent academics.
In one of the major KCK trials, 205 people are being tried, while in September, 44 journalists from a variety of Turkish and Kurdish media also stood trial for association with the KCK.
Several hundred of those still detained are on hunger strike to protest their criminalisation and the refusal of the Turkish government to engage in peace talks with Ocalan.
Margaret Owen, who observed the first hearings in July, says, “This is a “political” not a legal trial. While there are many KCK (alleged urban arm of the PKK) trials going on at the present time in Turkey, involving politicians, academics, journalists, trade unionists and civil society activists, this trial has grave implications for Turkey’s democratic credentials and her reputation as a suitable applicant to the EU because it is a trial of lawyers.”
She continues: “We hope to galvanise the international community to protest against the manipulation of the justice system by the Turkish authorities for political ends. We also are deeply concerned by the plight of the hundreds of hunger strikers among the political prisoners, many of whom are now facing death.”
For information contact:
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Fax: 020 7263 0596
Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, John Austin, Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Mark Thomas