Reyhan Yalçındağ Baydemir, one of the lawyers for Selahattin Demirtaş, a jailed Kurdish politician in Turkey, has been named lawyer of the week by British daily The Times.
Demirtaş, former co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was arrested in November 2016 on terrorism charges. A court found him guilty in September on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda and sentenced him to four years, eight months in prison.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on Nov. 20 that Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and ordered his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the European court’s ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey on Dec. 4 upheld Demirtaş’s four year, eight month prison sentence for disseminating terrorist propaganda.
When asked about the main challenges in the case of Demirtaş, Baydemir said: “With my colleagues Kerem Altıparmak, Deniz Gedik, Benan Molu, Ramazan Demir, Aygül Demirtaş and Mahsuni Karaman, the application to the ECtHR was made on behalf of Mr Demirtaş, whose parliamentary immunity, and that of 55 HDP deputies, was lifted. That lifting process and pre-trial detention were totally against the constitution. To exhaust all domestic remedies we had to apply to the Constitutional Court, but it denied — disregarded — its own jurisprudence.”
To a question about the best decision she has taken as a lawyer, Baydemir said since 1997 she has advised the victims of human rights violations before domestic courts and the ECtHR.
“The most important judgments were regarding extrajudicial killings, rape, torture or disappearances while in custody and destruction of villages in the Kurdish region,” said the lawyer, referring to incidents in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast in the 1990s.
Baydemir said she was only 6 years old when a military coup took place in Turkey in 1980, that some of her family members were detained, and that growing up she witnessed cases of torture and harassment of Kurdish prisoners.
“It created a new ‘memory’ for a young generation,” she said while answering a question about her source of inspiration to become a lawyer.
According to Baydemir, courage, being well prepared and paying attention to morale, undeterred, are the qualities that should be possessed by a lawyer.