Turkey: Urgent letter to UN Special Procedures on arbitrary detention of lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal, currently near death

Full pdf letter requesting Urgent Action

On 18 August 2020, LRWC joined in an urgent letter from a group of 17 lawyers’ organizations from to UN Special Procedures expressing “grave concern about two lawyers who have been on hunger strike since 2 February 2020 in demand for a fair trial.”  The two lawyers are reportedly in grave danger and near death.

“Even one more day in prison can be irreversibly detrimental to their health and it is reportedly a matter of hours, not days. Conditions in the hospital are reportedly worse than those in prison.”

The letter follows up an Urgent Action letter on 20 May 2019 regarding systematic persecution of lawyers in order to silence and intimidate human rights defenders and those critical of the Turkish government.

Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal are lawyers charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” under Article 314(2) of the Turkish Penal Code, for which they received sentences of 13.5 years and 10.5 years respectively. They are among hundreds of lawyers in Turkey being persecuted through unfair trials and arbitrary detention simply for peacefully and lawfully performing their internationally and constitutionally protected roles as lawyers.

As of 11 August 2020, Ms Timtik and Mr Ünsal have been on a “death fast” for 222 and 191 days respectively in demand for a fair trial. Ms Timtik went on a hunger strike in January 2020 and Mr Ünsal followed in February 2020. On 5 April 2020, they turned their protest into a “death fast” demanding a retrial.

On 30 July 2020, the Istanbul Forensic Medicine Institution released a report on the health conditions of Ms Timtik and Mr Ünsal, after the İstanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court ruled that the lawyers should undergo a medical examination.

According to the medical report, “it is not suitable for them [Ms Timtik and Mr Ünsal] to stay in prison.”

The attorneys of Ms Timtik and Mr Ünsal submitted the report to the İstanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court, along with their request for release and 152 petitions by lawyers abroad and more signed by lawyers in Turkey. However, the Court ruled that their detention be continued in hospital conditions. Ms Timtik had been imprisoned in İstanbul’s Silivri prison and Mr Ünsal had been in the Burhaniye prison in Balıkesir. They were hospitalised shortly after the ruling of the Court.

Even one more day in prison can be irreversibly detrimental to their health and it is reportedly a matter of hours, not days. Conditions in the hospital are reportedly worse than those in prison.

The case of Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal is currently under examination by the 16th Penal Chamber of the the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The letter is signed by:

  1. Ayşe Bingöl Demir, Co-Director, Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project (United Kingdom)
  2. Catherine Morris, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (Canada)
  3. Francesco Caia, Coordinator, Human Rights Commission, Consiglio Nazionale Forense
    (CNF) (Italy)
  4. Irma van den Berg, President, Lawyers for Lawyers (Netherlands)
  5. Martine JACQUIN, President, Defense Sans Frontiere-Avocats Solidaire ( DSF-AS) (France)
  6. Mehmet Durakoğlu, President, İstanbul Bar Association (Turkey)
  7. Melanie Aebli, Secretary General, Swiss Democratic Lawyers (Switzerland)
  8. Peter Hanenberg, President, Rotterdam Bar Association (Netherlands)
  9. Ranko Pelicarić, President, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) (Brussels)
  10. Republikanischer Anwältinnen- und Anwälteverein e. V., Berlin (Germany)
  11. Robert Sabata Gripekoven, Co-President, Avocat.e.s Européennes Démocrates / European Democratic Lawyers (AED/EDL)
  12. Sandrin Giroud, President, Human Right Commission, Ordre des Avocats de Genève / Geneva Bar Association (Switzerland)
  13. Serge Deygas, President, Lyon Bar Association (France)
  14. Sonia Lama, Chairperson, Equal Opportunity Committee, Ravenna Bar Association (Italy)
  15. Şerife Ceren Uysal, Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği / Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD) (Turkey)
  16. Thomas Schmidt, Secretary General, European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH) (Germany)
  17. Tony Fisher, Human Rights Committee, the Law Society of England and Wales (United Kingdom)