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HUNDREDS of lawyers from across the world have demanded the release of hunger-striking revolutionary lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytac Unsal as the final hearing in their case draws near.
Lawyers from Britain, France, Japan, Spain and more added their names to the urgent plea for the right to a fair trial as the health of the two, who turned their hunger strike into a death fast on April 5, deteriorates raidly.
At a press conference in the Turkish capital yesterday, Progressive Lawyers Association (CHD) Ankara branch chair Murat Yilmaz said that the 365-name petition would be presented to the country’s Supreme Court in a final plea for justice.
Turkey’s legal system has never truly served as a conduit for justice, with frequent government intervention in what are often highly politicised trials.
But a 2017 constitutional referendum gave authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the power to appoint judges, leading critics to warn of the total collapse of the justice system and the abandonment of the rule of law.
Thousands of lawyers deemed political opponents of the government have been detained on trumped-up charges of terrorism since the failed coup of 2016, with many more fleeing the country and forced into exile.
Mr Yilmaz said: “Prisons are full of lawyers, journalists, politicians, students, human-rights defenders, revolutionaries, socialists,” with at least 50,000 political prisoners believed to be behind bars in Turkey.
Ms Timtik and Mr Unsal were part of a group of 19 lawyers from the CHD sentenced to a total of 159 years in a flawed trial last year based on evidence from an unreliable state informant and anonymous witnesses.
The jailing was welcomed by Turkey’s bullish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who accused the lawyers of membership of the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). He said their imprisonment had “neutralised the organisation.”
But their representative, Aysegul Cagatay, who was released from prison after initially being jailed in the same case, told the Star that the case against the lawyers was a political intervention, warning that time is running out.
“Ebru Timtik is on the 153rd day of her death fast and Aytac Unsal is on the 122nd day. Their condition is critical, so immediate action is needed because it may be too late if we are forced to wait any longer,” she said.
Ms Catagay said that their demands — for a fair trial and an investigation in line with the law — must be met by the Supreme Court, the final domestic avenue available in the pursuit of justice.
She called on the court to remove the “political oppression” being applied to the case and judge it solely according to the law.
Mr Yilmaz urged people on the outside to raise the demands of freedom and justice for political prisoners.
Letters can be sent to: Aytac Unsal, No 1 F-Type Prison, Burhaniye, Balikesir, Turkey, and Ebru Timtik, Silivri Prison, Istanbul, Turkey.
A petition has been launched supporting their demand for a fair trial. People can send their name, job and location to email@example.com.
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