Meeting at the Turkish Ministry of Justice for the Death Fasting lawyers

A delegation of progressive intellectuals and lawyers, and representatives of the justice ministry, met in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, on Monday (June 8th). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the demands of the lawyers – Aytaç Ünsal and Ebru Timtik, who started an indefinite hunger strike earlier this year, which on April 5th, the two lawyers turned into a Death Fast (hunger strike till death), saying they would end it only if their demands for a new fair trial against them, and a judicial system independent of political power, be accepted.

The delegation that took part in the meeting was as follows: Hüseyin Aygün, a former opposition MP who is also a lawyer and journalist, lawyers from Ankara Bar Association – Ertuğrul Cem Cihan and Doğan Erkan. The Ministry of Justice was represented by Deputy Minister of Justice – Zekeriya Birkan and Adviser of the Minister of Justice, the MP from the ruling AKP – Salih Çetinkaya.

Shortly after the meeting, in his profile on Twitter – Hüseyin Aygün gave the following information about how the event went.

Our meeting at the Ministry of Justice ended a while ago. We have talked about the state of health of Aytaç and Ebru, gave detailed information about the violations and inconsistencies in the case against them, whose materials are now in the 16th panel of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court of Cassation, we also discussed how can end the Death Fast. Ministry officials kept notes all the time, finally stating that “there should be no death cases.”

What led the two lawyers to decide to start a Death Fast for justice?

Lawyers members of the Association of Progressive Lawyers (Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği -ÇHD) and the People’s Law Office (Halkın Hukuk Bürosu), including the chairman of ÇHD – lawyer Selçuk Kozağaçlı, were detained after a series of raids carried out by the political police and SWAT teams in the autumn of 2017. The detained lawyers were subsequently imprisoned. At the first hearing in the case against the lawyers, held in mid-September 2018, which was heard by the 37th panel of the Istanbul Criminal Court, the lawyers were released. Just 10 hours later, the trial panel, whose members were replaced with new ones, issued arrest warrants for most of the released lawyers. Six of the lawyers released after the trial were detained by the police on their first day at freedom. The President of the panel and two of the judges who had issued the decision to release from prison the lawyers were later “transferred” to other positions in the judiciary, as a kind of punishment for their decision in favor of progressive lawyers.

As a result of the trial against 18 lawyers from the Association of Progressive Lawyers and the People’s Law Office, in March 2019, they were sentenced to a total of 159 years, 1 month and 30 days imprisonment, on charges of “membership in an illegal organization” and “managing an illegal organization.” The accusations and sentences handed down to the lawyers were based solely on the false testimonies of several police informants and collaborationists, which were used by the fascist oligarchy.

Lawyer Aytaç Ünsal was sentenced to 10 years and 6 months in prison, and Ebru Timtik was sentenced to 13 years and 6 months in prison, the charges against them were “membership in an illegal organization”. Earlier this year, Timtik and Ünsal first went on an indefinite hunger strike demanding a new fair trial against them. Aytaç Ünsal on the 63rd, and Ebru Timtik, on the 94th day of their hunger strikes, announced that they were turning them into Death Fast, meaning that either their demands would be accepted or they would die.

In 2019-2020, political prisoner Mustafa Koçak also went on a Death Fast demanding a fair trial, with the fascist government refusing to accept his request, leading to his death on the 296th day of the protest.

The musicians from the leftist music band Grup Yorum also went on a Death Fast, against the repressions of the fascist oligarchy against their band. In this protest two members of the band have martyred – Helin Bölek on April 3, 2020, and Ibrahim Gökçek on May 7, 2020, just 2 days after stopped the action, and was treated in a hospital in Istanbul. Grup Yorum announced that it had achieved a political victory and ended the Death Fast, but the repression against the band continue.

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