Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the ongoing judicial harassment faced by Mr. Ramazan Demir, a lawyer known for his participation in the defence of journalists prosecuted within the framework of a broad-ranging anti-terrorist operation intended to dismantle an alleged terrorist network known as KCK, and more particularly the “KCK Press Trial”, but also his mobilisation in favour of lawyers prosecuted under two mass anti-terrorism trials.
According to the information received, Mr. Ramazan Demir is facing charges in relation to defence speeches made during KCK trials. On July 16, 2013, he was charged for “insulting or (…) offending the dignity of a public authority in the performance of his duties”, pursuant to Section 125 of the Criminal Code which provides for up to two years of imprisonment. According to Articles 58 and 59 of the Law on Attorneyship (Law No. 1136 adopted on March 19, 1966), a lawyer may be charged only upon the authorisation of the Criminal Affairs Department of the Justice Ministry.
The charges follow a complaint filed on May 13, 2013 by the Special Prosecutor of the 15th Heavy Criminal Court, after, during a hearing held on November 16, 2012, Mr. Demir challenged the capacity of the Prosecutor to determine in the indictment that a group of journalists facing charges were conducting activities that are not “normal” nor “independent”. Mr. Demir also requested the court to call and hear an expert to testify before the Court on what can constitute normal and independent journalistic activities. The Silivri Prosecutor conducted an investigation, decided to charge lawyer Ramazan Demir and, on September 9, 2013, obtained authorisation from the Justice Ministry to file the indictment.
On November 7, 2013, the Istanbul Bar Association also initiated a disciplinary investigation against Mr. Ramazan Demir in relation to the same incident pursuant to Article 141 of the Internal Rules on Attorneyship, following the complaint filed by the Special Prosecutor of the 15th Heavy Criminal Court. Mr. Demir may face an official warning, a fine, suspension from the exercise of attorneyship or may even be disbarred.
According to the same information, this case of harassment of lawyers is not unique. Several other lawyers would be facing the same charges for defence speeches made in KCK trials.
The Observatory is deeply concerned by this new pattern of judicial harassment facing lawyers in Turkey, as it seems to merely aim at curtailing the legitimate exercise of their profession and their peaceful efforts towards the defence of human rights principles, and calls upon the Turkish judicial authorities to unconditionally drop the charges against Mr. Ramazan Demir.
The Observatory further recalls that dozens of human rights defenders are currently subjected to prolonged judicial harassment for trumped-up and abusive terrorism charges in Turkey. The KCK Press Trial is one of dozens of ongoing mass trials of Kurdish intellectuals and activists in Turkey. Since 2009, over 8,000 people have been arrested in the context of the KCK investigations – counter-terrorism operations that in reality have little to do with countering terrorism, but rather have been used as a means of criminalising peaceful dissent and Kurdish political and cultural expression.
Please write to the Turkish authorities, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ramazan Demir as well as all human rights defenders in Turkey;
ii. Drop charges pending against Mr. Ramazan Demir immediately and unconditionally as the charges are clearly aimed at curtailing the legitimate exercise of their professions and their peaceful human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Ramazan Demir and ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances;
iv. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;
v. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Turkey.
• Interior Minister, Mr. Idris Naim Sahin, 06644 Ankara, Turkey; Fax: + 90 312 418 17 95 / +90 312 418 7696,
• Justice Minister, Mr. Sadullah Ergin, Ministry of Justice/ Adalet Bakanligi, 06659 Ankara, Turkey; Fax: + 90 312 414 62 26
• Foreign Minister, Mr. Ahmed Davudoglu, Office of the Prime Minister, Basbakanlik, 06573 Ankara, Turkey; Fax: +90 312 287 88 11
•President of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, Prof. Dr. Metin Feyzioglu, Türkiye Barolar Birligi Baskanligi, Oguzlar Mahallesi Baris Manço Caddesi Av. Özok Sokak No: 8 06650 Balgat – Ankara, Turkey; email: barobirl[email protected]; Fax: +90 312 286 31 00 / +90 312 286 55 65
• Ambassador, Mr. Oguz Demiralp, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Ch. du Petit-Saconnex 28b – CP 271, CH-1211, Geneva 19, Switzerland, E-mail: [email protected], Fax: +41 22 734 08 59
• Ambassador, Mr. Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Avenue des Arts 36-38, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
TUR 003 / 1113 / OBS 092, Judicial harassment / Disciplinary harassment, Turkey
Paris-Geneva, November 20, 2013