PRESS RELEASE 15 July 2012
A delegation of UK representatives will arrive in Istanbul today (15 July 2012) to observe the trial of more than 30 lawyers at a court of special authority. The lawyers have been accused of terrorism offences within the scope of the ‘KCK operations’, a campaign of mass arrests and crackdown on the activities the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).
Margaret Owen OBE, barrister (9 Bedford Walk) and member of UK Bar Human Rights Committee and lawyer Ali Has, will observe the three-day trial to monitor proceedings. In total, 36 lawyers will be on trial, all of whom were charged after simultaneous police raids across Turkey in November resulted in the initial arrest of nearly 70 lawyers. Amongst those on trial are legal representatives of Abdullah Ocalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who is widely considered to be the legitimate representative of the Kurdish people.
Despite condemnation from international campaigns and human rights groups, the crackdown against the KCK has continued unabated since 2009 and has resulted in close to 8000 arrests of journalists, lawyers, union members, human rights advocates, and journalists.
Many of those arrested have been tried in mass show trials of up to 200 people at a time. Prominent author and publisher, Ragip Zarakolu, and academic Busra Ersanli, as well as lawyer and vice president of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) Muharrem Erbey, are a few of those thousands whose arrest has received wider international attention.
The prosecution of members of Ocalan’s defence team is clearly a political manoeuvre from the Turkish authorities, and is part of a broader attack on the civil, legal and political rights of both Ocalan and the wider Kurdish community. The intensive criminalisation of political dissent against government repression has been a persistent feature of Kurdish life in Turkey for years, making current Turkish incriminations against the Syrian regime more than a little hypocritical.
Several international lawyers associations and human rights groups, including the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights have already publicly denounced the arrests and called for the release of all political prisoners in Turkey, including Abdullah Ocalan.
The UK delegation is supported by Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Bar Human Rights Committee, South Lanarkshire UNISON and UNITE, London North West Branch 9708
For further information contact:
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Bairbre de Brún 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, Mark Thomas