Turkish bar association presidents call for release of lawyers on hunger strike: report

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Aytaç Ünsal (L) and Ebru Timtik

The presidents of nine bar associations including those in Turkey’s largest cities of İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir in a video message called for the release of lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal, who have been on a hunger strike since April 5, demanding a fair trial for the two attorneys, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Timtik and Ünsal have been in prison since Sept. 12, 2018 on charges of membership in the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

On March 20, 2019, the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court sentenced Timtik to 13 years, six months and Ünsal to 10 years, six months. According to the ruling the two were accused of “communicating the organization’s messages to captured members and acting as couriers.” Their cases are currently before Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals.

In their messages the presidents of the bar associations asked the Supreme Court of Appeals to allow Timtik and Ünsal to have a fair trial and release them. İzmir Bar Association President Özkan Yücel asked, “To those who are keeping their files at the Supreme Court of Appeals for a long time, don’t you realize Ebru and Aytaç are dying?”

The two lawyers had taken on important cases such as a mining disaster in Soma that took the lives of 301 miners; the death of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who was hit on the head with a tear-gas canister fired by a police officer during the June 2013 anti-government protests in Turkey that are known as the Gezi protests; and the death of Engin Çeber in prison due to torture.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle Turkish service about the cases on June 4, Istanbul Bar Association President Mehmet Durakoğlu said there was no concrete evidence and that the entire case was based on the testimony of a secret witness who has been used by the prosecution in a variety of cases.

Last month, the secret witness, İ.Ö., sent a petition to Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals and said his testimony should not be taken into consideration due to his mental problems, including hallucinations. The petition was submitted by İ.Ö.’s attorney and included medical reports that support his claim.

İ.Ö. had previously informed on his father, claiming that he had come into contact with the DHKP-C through him. In a letter he once said he has been a witness in DHKP-C related cases since 2008. He has been in prison for 13 years and was convicted of buying, carrying and possessing unlicensed firearms and ammunition, causing bodily injury and looting.

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