An appeal from the People’s law office – International office



Two Turkish lawyers, Ebru Timtik and Aytac Ünsal, have been on their hunger strike for some time and have decided one the 5th April 2020 to change their hunger strike to a death fast. Ebru Timtik has passed the 100th day and Aytac Ünsal the 70th day.
The lawyers of the people were arrested three years ago and sentenced to 159 years in prison in an arbitrary, illegitimate and vindictive political lawsuit. The imprisoned lawyers as well as lawyers who were not imprisoned and legal organisations, organised campaigns and events in Turkey and elsewhere to oppose this unjust and unlawful lawsuit and sentence. Under these circumstances the imprisoned lawyers announced on the 3rd February 2020 that they would go on a hunger strike for the demand of a fair trial. On the 5th April 2020 two of these lawyers, Ebru Timtik and Aytac Ünsal, turned their hunger strike into a death fast.

Why are those lawyers of the people death fasting? To understand their action, we have to look at their lawsuit which was full of violations of law and arbitrariness from the beginning onward, and bring the injustice they had to face to mind.

• It started on 12th September 2017 with simultaneously raids and arrests of 16 lawyers in the offices of the “People’s Law Office” (“Halkɪn Hukuk Bürosu”) in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Amed (Diyarbakir) as well as the “Law Office Umut” in Ankara and Istanbul and in various other law offices.
• 10 days later, 14 of the arrested lawyers were brought to an arraignment before the custodial judge who decided on their imprisonment because of suspicion of a “membership in an organisation”. Another three lawyers were arrested and afterwards imprisoned. This caused the number of imprisoned lawyers in case of this operation to increase to a number of 17. The lawyers Günay Dag and Oya Aslan were noted as being “fugitive”.
• The charge against those 17 lawyers was built on a “membership in an organisation”. The evidence for this charge were testimonies of unnamed witnesses and confessors, which were abstract and not backed up with objective evidence. A huge part of those testimonies and therefore the accusations were built the perception of fundamental legal professional obligations, for example “Reminding their client of their right of silence during investigative custody” or “the resistance to torture and unjust, inhumane treatment which their client was exposed to” or “ensure their clients were released as fast as possible”. Another charge held against the lawyers was their participation in the lawsuit over the murders of Dilek Dogan and Berkin Elvan by the police or the murder of Hasan Ferit Gedik, who fought against drug gangs, as well as the lawsuit about the mining accident in Soma, in which 301 miners lost their lives, and many other lawsuits which were in the public interest. So the professional acts of the lawyers were criminalised and was used in the accusation against them. The actual reason for the imprisonment of the lawyers was thus their professional activity.

These injustices also reflect themselves in the lawsuit. The following points happened during the trial:
• The 17 imprisoned lawyers were set free at the end of the first week of the trial from the 10th -14th September 2018 before the 37th chamber of the high criminal court in Istanbul.
• The decision was announced on Friday, the 14th September 2018 at 10:10 pm. The lawyers were released from custody in the early morning.
• The prosecutor objected to the decision on Saturday, the 15th September 2018 around 01:00 am. After that on Saturday, the 15th September 2018 at 04:30 pm, even though that this was a weekend, 12 of the already released lawyers received a decision, which does not exist in penal procedure and which contained the “arrest in order to detain”. On the same day six lawyers were arrested.
• Thereafter the 37th chamber of the high criminal court, which announced the release verdict, has been dissolved, the judges were replaced and they were punished by being transferred to subordinate courts.
• The new replacement was put together by judges like Akin Gürlek who were known for their proximity to the government and their hatred towards members of the opposition, especially people with revolutionary-socialist ideas.
• On the 15th September 2018, the 37th chamber of the high criminal court, newly formed through an open intervention by the government, conducted the lawsuit under the leadership of judge Akin Gürlek from now on in a way that illegally followed neither the criminal procedure code nor general legal rules, the right of defence and the fundamental rules of a fair trial were neglected and in the course of the guidelines of the government, a hasty judgment was reached.
• During the lawsuit, the lawyers as well as the defenders of the lawyers were prevented from exercising their procedural rights, not allowed to finish talking or question the unnamed witnesses and the confessors. The applications to take evidence of the lawyers or their defenders were rejected, they were forcefully removed from the courtroom. Over the time of the lawsuit other illegitimate things were happening.
• At the end of the lawsuit, the lawyers were judged without the submission of concrete evidence and only on doubtful testimonies from unnamed witnesses and confessors and were sentenced to the highest possible penalty in accordance with the instructions of the government.

The penalties against the lawyers are as follows:
• Barkin Timtik: In accordance with § 314 (1) of the Turkish criminal code condemned for “creation and leadership of the organisation” to 18 years 9 months and the continuation of the imprisonment,
• Özgür Yilmaz: 13 years and 6 months of imprisonment and the issue of an arrest warrant,
• Ebru Timtik: 13 years and 6 months of imprisonment and the issue of an arrest warrant,
• Behiç Aşçı:12 years and continuation of the imprisonment,
• Sükriye Erden: 12 years of imprisonment and the issue of an arrest warrant,
• Selçuk Kozağaçlı: 10 years and 5 months and continuation of the imprisonment,
• Engin Gökoğlu: 10 years and 6 months and continuation of the imprisonment,
• Aytaç Ünsal: 10 years and 6 months and continuation of the imprisonment,
• Süleyman Gökten: 10 years and 6 months of imprisonment and the issue of an arrest warrant,
• Ayçan Çiçek: 9 years and continuation of the imprisonment,
• Naciye Demir: 9 years of imprisonment and issue of an arrest warrant,
• Ezgi Çakır: 8 years of imprisonment
• On the other side due to the fact that Ezgi Çakır has a minor child and the child’s father was fugitive, her imprisonment has been turned into house arrest.

This is the development that led to the hunger strike of the lawyers and to their now ongoing death fast. During this time they tried everything possible to oppose these injustices and unrighteousness inflicted on them. With the now commenced hunger strike and death fast, they embarked on the ultima ratio to resist the injustices they faced, which they were expected to accept quietly.

The demands of the lawyers are of course not only focused on their own situation. Their general demands overlap with the demands of Ibrahim GÖKCEK, a member of Grup Yorum, who has reached around 300 days of his hunger strike and death fast, along with the demands of Mustafa KOCAK who has reached around 290 days and Helin BÖLEK, another member of Grup Yorum, who lost her life on the 288th day of her death fast (April 3, 2020): The end of the unlawful and arbitrary lawsuits, the repeal of all penalties that were released during this lawsuit and the abolishment of all obstacles for the practising of the right for a fair trial, like the institution of the unnamed witnesses and confessors.

The lawyers of the people continue their death fast with these simple and feasible demands. And we call on every colleague, legal advisor, the bar association, legal organisation and intellectual who fights for right and freedoms and who defends the demand of the people for justice to support our colleagues on death fast in their legitimate demands, to spread solidarity wider and to fight more actively to get these demands accepted.

It is up to us to keep them alive.

Let us keep them alive with our fight and our solidarity!