Turkey: Lawyers Levent Pişkin, Cahit Kırkazak and Ayşe Batumlu acquitted | Welcome developments

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada welcomes news that on 18 November 2020 a Turkish court  acquitted eleven people including lawyers Levent Pişkin, Cahit Kırkazak, and Ayşe Batumlu, on all charges of membership in a terrorist organization and terror propaganda.

In July 2019, LRWC was among 17 international legal organizations led by the Law Society of England and Wales filed a
submission for Turkey’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council. The UPR took place in Geneva on 28 January 2020. The joint submission summarized concerns that:

As of April 2019, 4260 judges and prosecutors had been dismissed. Many judges and prosecutors have also been arrested and are in pre-trial detention or serving prison sentences after conviction. The number of convicted judges and prosecutors on terrorism charges reached 634 as of 26 April 2019. Approximately 500 administrative personnel of the Supreme Court, Council of State, Court of Accounts, and Council of Judges and Prosecutors were also dismissed and only eight reinstated… (Joint stakeholder submission, Para 23).

The UPR submission mentioned Levent Pişkin by name as one example of judicial harassment of lawyers. Mr. Pişkin was charged with terror propaganda after a 2016 visit with a former member of Parliament in prison. He was accused of transmitting information from the imprisoned member of parliament to a German magazine.

LRWC has advocated on behalf of Ayze Batumlu and numerous other lawyers detained on ill-defined and overbroad charges for which the evidence is insufficient to justify conviction of any criminal offence. In some cases, the only evidence on which convictions are based are that the lawyer was simply been performing his or her job by defending a politically sensitive defendant, or was found guilty “by association” because friends, colleagues or relatives had been under suspicion by the Turkish authorities.

LRWC continues to research and report on human rights violations against lawyers and human rights defenders in Turkey in numerous letters, submissions, and statements to the UN Human Rights Council.