We are deeply saddened and angry by the loss of people’s lawyer Ebru Timtik of Turkey, who carried out a hunger strike for 238 days to demand justice in her case and those of her fellow wrongfully imprisoned people’s lawyers who were subjected to lengthy prison sentences for defending fellow political prisoners in Turkish prisons. Even with clear knowledge of her deteriorating health and international pressure for her release Turkey left her to die. Ebru was a people’s lawyer and martyr for justice.
On March 22, 2019, Ebru was arrested along with several other members of the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD) of Turkey. They were tried and convicted on false charges of membership in an armed or terrorist organization and collectively sentenced to 159 years after a profoundly unfair trial. In protest of their detention and denial of their right to a fair trial, Ebru Timtik, Aytaç Ünsal and others began a hunger strike on February 3rd, 2020.
Since the alleged coup attempt in 2016, over 1500 lawyers have been imprisoned by the Turkish regime. The charges relate to their defence of persons who were allegedly associated with opposition to the Turkish Government. President Erdogan has imposed draconian laws that suppresses human rights and freedoms in Turkey and criminalise the defence by lawyers of persons opposing the Government.
Turkey has been widely criticized for its extensive and unjust use of anti-terrorism laws against lawyers, activists, journalists, trade unionists, and intellectuals long before 2016. The National Lawyers Guild has been monitoring the Turkish government’s prosecution of lawyers for several years, with many of us traveling to Turkey for fact finding missions and to monitor trials. We have been consistently alarmed at the types of legal attacks against members of ÇHD and other progressive lawyers, including in 2013 when many were accused of supporting terrorism for the mere act of counseling their clients to remain silent.
Among those Ebru and her colleagues at ÇHD have defended are workers fighting for the labor rights, youth victims of police brutality, community residents fighting for housing rights and against displacement of the poor, and political prisoners of many backgrounds.
We will continue to fight for the release of Aytaç Ünsal and his fellow imprisoned and persecuted progressive lawyers in Turkey. Please call, write, tweet the Turkish Embassy to demand Aytac’s release.