A Turkish court on Friday sentenced 19 lawyers affiliated with the now-closed Progressive Lawyers Association (ÇHD) to 146 years in prison in total on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “propagandizing for a terrorist organization,” Turkish media reported.
The İstanbul 18th High Criminal Court convicted the lawyers of membership in the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C) and spreading the propaganda of the DHKP/C, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
However, many of their colleagues and rights groups believe that the lawyers had been imprisoned for doing their job and exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The ÇHD was closed by a government decree in November 2017.
The court sentenced the jailed defendants Selçuk Kozağaçlı to 13 years in prison, Barkın Timtik to 21 years, eight months, and Oya Aslan to 16 years, six months, and ruled to keep them in jail during the appeals process.
Güray Dağ, Efkan Bolaç, Serkan Arıkanoğlu, Mümin Özgür Gider, Metin Narin, Sevgi Sönmez, Alper Tunga Saral, Rahim Yılmaz and Selda Yılmaz all received prison sentences of six years, three months, while Özgür Yılmaz was sentenced to one year in prison.
Taylan Tanay, Betül Vangölü Kozağaçlı, Güçlü Sevimli, Gülvin Aydın, Şükriye Erden and Naciye Demir received suspended sentences.
The court separated the cases of Zeki Rüzgar and Günay Dağ, who are among the accused but are at large.
The court dropped the charges against Ebru Timtik, a previously imprisoned lawyer who died during a hunger strike in September 2020.
Timtik and her colleague Aytaç Ünsal were arrested in September 2018 for alleged membership in the DHKP/C.
They went on a hunger strike in April 2020 demanding a fair trial. A few days after Timtik’s death, Ünsal was released from prison for reasons of health.
On March 20, 2019 the İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court had sentenced Timtik to 13 years, six months and Ünsal to 10 years, six months.
The ÇHD 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 teargas canister fired by a police officer during the June 2013 anti-government Gezi protests; and the death of Engin Çeber in prison due to torture.
Turkey has prosecuted more than 1,600 attorneys and arrested 615 of them on terrorism charges since a failed coup in 2016, according to a report from the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, an advocacy group defending lawyers’ rights.
According to the Arrested Lawyers, since 2016, 551 lawyers have been sentenced to 3356 years in prison over terrorism-related charges in Turkey.
Lawyers have particularly been targeted due to the identities or affinities of their clients, the report said.