Mass Arrest of Lawyers is No Way to Run a Democracy

PEACE IN KURDISTAN PRESS RELEASE, 23 November 2011


“There was a need for deep-rooted reform,” he said. “They could not carry on as they were for ever. In the end, it would either be the people or some sort of external interference that would bring change. Turkey now is a source of inspiration to many of these countries.”

These remarks from Turkish President Gul about the “Arab Spring” in an interview with The Guardian (21/11/2011) will ring extremely hollow indeed when set against what is actually happening inside Turkey at the present time. Despite the country being lauded as a model of democracy and as a success story to be emulated in the Middle East, political repression is continuing on a quite unprecedented scale. Thousands of peaceful political campaigners, civil society leaders and individuals prominent in public life in Turkey are being arrested and persecuted in the wave of arrests unleashed at the behest of the country’s sweeping anti-terrorism legislation.

On 22 November Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul made his official visit to London where he held talks about democratic reforms, the “Arab Spring” and his country’s inspiring example for the Middle East with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Foreign Secretary William Hague. While he was expostulating on the virtues of Turkey’s reform path with his hosts, back home a new wave of mass arrests took place, this time the targets were mainly lawyers (in fact out of 100 detained in the latest arrests, as many as 70 were lawyers). It seems they have been arrested simply for carrying out their professional duties of representing their clients; if their clients are accused of terrorist offences, the logic runs, then the lawyers who represent them are automatically tainted and hence guilty by association. This is a recipe for absolute tyranny, not the modern democracy that Turkish leaders now preach to the outside world so vocally.

The arrests are part of the continuing attacks on mainly Kurdish political activists which have been taking place during the last two years and had gathered renewed momentum in the wake of the June 2011 general election when Kurdish backed candidates did surprisingly well (much to the annoyance of Erdogan’s AKP). In total, more than 4500 people have been arrested and the majority are still awaiting trial. Among the detainees are democratically elected MPs, mayors and city councillors, journalists, trade unionists, writers, academics, teachers and human rights activists. Among those arrested today is virtually the entire defence team of Abdullah Ocalan. At the same time, Ocalan has been denied access to his defence team since 27 July – nearly 120 days.

Responding to the raids on the houses and offices of lawyers which occurred in the context of the “KCK operation”, one lawyer insisted that the “operations have no legal basis. The government wants to intimidate the whole society.”

Echoing Prime Minister Erdogan’s latest comments on Assad’s regime in Syria, the BDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtas retorted by saying, “From a political point of view, the AKP is bringing itself to a dead end with these operations.”

The KCK operation threatens to criminalise the whole of the Kurdish population in Turkey and is surely no way for a self-proclaimed model democracy to behave. What kind of example in Turkey setting now? How can British leaders continue to turn a blind eye to the reality of what Turkey is becoming today? A country where people live in fear and are unable to voice their opinions in public; it is a country where all normal political behaviour is suspended at least where the Kurdish issue is concerned.

ENDS

NOTES:

International Initiative  http://www.freedom-for-ocalan.com/english/

For more information contact

Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Email: estella24@tiscali.co.uk
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 4131

 Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, John Austin, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Mark Thomas, Bairbre de Brún MEP
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