Margaret Owen observes 6th hearing of the KCK trial of lawyers, 17 September 2013

This week a UK delegation of six barristers and solicitors travelled to Istanbul to observe the sixth hearing of the KCK trial of lawyers, a major anti-terror trial in which 46 lawyers representing Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan are being tried on mass for their association with him as their client.

In this hearing the final 16 defendants whose case had not yet been heard were able to present their defence. None were released on bail, and so must endure continued imprisonment on top of the 22 months they have already spent in pre-trial detention until the next hearing, scheduled for 19 December.

The delegates included international human rights barristers Margaret Owen OBE, Hugo Charlton, and Mark Jones of St Ives Chambers, as well as Tooks Chambers’ Bronwen Jones and Law Society Human Rights Committee member, Tony Fisher and Ali Has, solicitor and representative of the Law Society Human Rights Committee International Action Team.

We will bring you reports and statements by the delegates in the near future. In the meantime, Margaret Owen has written three blog posts giving her observations of the highly political hearing, which are below.

All of our delegates reports and statements on the trials, as well as our actions here in the UK to bring the issue to wider attention, can be found on the International Observation of the KCK trial of Kurdish Lawyers page.

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Challenging the Oppression of Lawyers in Times of Conflict


Queen’s University Belfast Human Rights Centre, School of Law, will host a one day conference in November called Challenging the Oppression of Lawyers in Times of Conflict, which will tackle questions about the causes of oppression of lawyers in conflict and post-conflict scenarios, and what protections can be provided. Lawyers-in-Conflict-Poster3

Aims of the conference:

“In times of conflict it is common for severe oppression to infiltrate every aspect of life as a result of both State and non-State actors’ actions. Those in a position to challenge the oppressors, such as lawyers, are often subjected to systematic discrimination and violence during times of conflict. Such oppression deprives lawyers of their fundamental rights.

The aim of this one day conference is to bring together academics, activists, grass-roots expert, legal professionals and students to learn from each other and ignite debate on the issues that lawyers face during time of conflict, the impact of these issues from a human rights perspective and potential ways to address these issues. It seeks to engage a holistic approach that draws from conflict experiences across the globe which at are at various stages in their progression towards peace. As such this conference will bring together experts who have experience in countries which have seen lawyers become specific targets of oppression. Primarily the Basque country, China, Colombia, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Russia, Turkey and South Africa.

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PiK patron completes solidarity hunger strike

Margaret Owen, human rights barrister, women’s rights advocate and patron of Peace in Kurdistan campaign has completed her one-week hunger strike in solidarity with Shaker Aamer, who is among the inmates currently refusing food at Guantanamo Bay. She has been writing blogs throughout the week, has given interviews and had a letter published in the Guardian in an effort to raise awareness of Shaker’s plight – a British citizen who has been held in Guantanamo Bay for the past 11 years without charge.

Margaret undertook the action in association with Reprieve and the Stand Fast for Justice Campaign, which is supporting hunger strikers the prison camp and demands justice for the detainees.

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Margaret Owen on hunger strike, in support for Shaker Aamer

Margaret Owen is among the protesters entering a solidarity hunger strike for British Guantanamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer. The campaign aims to put pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to secure Mr Aamer’s release from the illegal US prison camp. Mr Aamer, whose family lives in Battersea, has been held in Guantanamo Prison without charge since 2002 when Afghan soldiers in Jalalabad abducted and delivered him to the US Bagram airbase.

Mr Aamer’s lawyers maintain that he was working in Afghanistan for a Saudi charity and say his jailers extracted false confessions under torture. He has long been cleared for release by the US.

The hunger strike is part of Reprieve’s Stand Fast for Justice campaign, which began with a weeklong hunger strike by Reprieve founder and director Clive Stafford Smith, who is also Mr Aamer’s lawyer. He was later joined by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle, and actress Julie Christie.

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Interview with Hozat, Karayılan and Bayık

Below we reproduce an interview with the two new co-chairs of the executive council of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), Bese Hozat and Cemil Bayik, and the former KCK chairman Murat Karayilan.

By ANF BEHDİNAN

July 2013

The two new co-chairs of the executive council of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), Bese Hozat and Cemil Bayık as well as the former KCK chairman of the executive council and the current supreme commander of the Kurdish Peoples’ Defence Forces (HPG) Murat Karayılan, talked to the news agency Firat (ANF) after the exceptional 9th general assembly of Kongra-Gel. During the general assembly the democratic solution process was the main topic. In this interview Karayılan explained that the coming weeks will be of great importance. ‘With the current attitude of the government, the process will not progress further. Even though the process has not come to a standstill yet, it is at risk of coming to a halt,’ explained Karayılan.

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International lawyers groups issue joint statement on KCK lawyers trial

PRESS RELEASE. JUNE 21st, 2013

International delegation observing lawyers trial 20 June in Istanbul

 

Today we, the undersigned, being a delegation of lawyers from five European countries, observed the fifth hearing, on the 20th June, 2013, of the trial of 46 lawyers, our colleagues, who face prosecution for being members of an illegal organisation, allegedly in the course of undertaking their professional duties, i.e acting as defence lawyers for the imprisoned Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

While the procedures used by the authorities leading up to the arrests, for example,  seizure of confidential and privileged documents including client files, unlawful and unwarranted phone tapping and intercepting of private correspondence including emails, violate internationally acknowledged standards in human rights law, we are concerned that the hearings themselves breach the various criteria to be complied with to ensure that trials are “fair”. The defendants have had very limited opportunities to challenge the prosecutor’s evidence which has appeared most speculative and flimsy, but when they have done, they have exposed the indictments as being more often in the realm of fantasy than of fact.

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Margaret Owen: Blogs from Istanbul during fifth KCK lawyers trial hearing

Margaret Owen OBE, along with barrister Melanie Gingell and solicitor Ali Has, has continued  her excellent work as international trial monitor at the latest hearing of the KCK trial of 46 Kurdish lawyers, which took place last Thursday. Below are a series of blog posts written by Margaret about the ongoing protests in Istanbul, and of course about the latest developments in the trial.

Tuesday June 18th. Istanbul. Midnight.

We arrived in Istanbul late tonight, half expecting to find armed police, and even the army, blocking roads from the airport to the city, but all was strangely quiet.

Our taxi driver surprised us by saying that the city centre and Taksim square were deserted, and that the BBC and foreign media had grossly exaggerated the protest movement. He was quite angry at our questions and told us that now the demonstrations were all over and everyone had gone home.

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Write to Adem Uzun!

Earlier in the year, Peace in Kurdistan campaign and CAMPACC began a number of initiatives to demand the release of Brussels-based Kurdish activist Adem Uzun, who was arrested in Paris last October. He was denied bail and he has now spent seven months in prison without a trial date set.

Read more about Adem, the political nature of his arrest and our campaigns to release him.

In February we sent an open letter to the French Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, which was signed by over 200 campaigners, politicians, academics and community activists, urging the French authorities to release him. Anyone who missed their chance to sign the open letter can still get involved – we also designed and printed cards that YOU can send off her. The more that arrive on her desk the better, so get in touch if you’d like some to send.

Most importantly, we are appealing to everyone to write directly to Adem. It is often said that the most frightening thing for prisoners is the fear of being forgotten. We want to make sure that Adem is not forgotten, and a simple letter from you could break the isolation he must undoubtedly feel at this time. We believe and act of solidarity like this will provide him with great comfort and strength.

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BHRC launches latest report into KCK lawyers trial

Melanie Gingell, barrister from Tooks Chambers and member of the Bar Human Rights Committee, has written a report into the fourth hearing of the ongoing KCK  trial of 46 lawyers in Istanbul, which took place on 28 March 2013. Further observations of the hearing have already been provided by Margaret Owen and Tony Fisher, who joined Melanie at the Silivri court house as international monitors.

The report has been published on the BHRC website, where it is available for download.

The trials continues on 20 June 2013.

Mass trials of lawyers and politicians in Turkey – Legal and political obstacles to the resolution of the Kurdish conflict

PANEL DISCUSSION

Mass trials of lawyers and politicians in Turkey –

 Legal and political obstacles to the resolution of the Kurdish conflict

Thursday 18 April 2013, 6.30pm

Tooks Chambers, 81 Farringdon St, City of London, London EC4A 4BL

This event is free and open to the public.

Two distinguished lawyers, former president of the Turkish Human Rights Association (HRA) Ms Reyhan Yalcindag, and renowned defence lawyer Mr Ercan Kanar, as well as Prof Nazan Ustundag, of Boğaziçi University, will be visiting London to take part in this panel discussion. Following their participation in a conference at Queens University Belfast on the Kurdish question in Turkey, we are pleased to invite these lawyers, academics and activists to share their considerable expertise with us. The event has been called by Peace in Kurdistan campaign, CAMPACC and the Kurdish Federation UK, and will be chaired by Ali Has, solicitor advocate and member of the Law Society Human Rights Committee.

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