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Turkey: Progressive lawyers turn their hunger strike into a ‘death fast’ in demand for a fair trial

TWO jailed members of Turkey’s Progressive Lawyers Association (CHD) have turned their hunger strike into a “death fast” as they demand the right to a fair trial after receiving lengthy sentences on trumped-up terrorism charges.

Ebru Timtik, a CHD executive member, and Aytac Unsal announced their action on April 5, which is lawyers’ day in Turkey. They had already been refusing food for 94 days and 63 days respectively.

In a statement, the pair said that it was “not a day of celebration but struggle,” since eight members of the association are behind bars.

The lawyers were sentenced to a combined total of 159 years in jail in March last year after being accused of membership of the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP/C).

But the trial was highly politicised, with Turkey’s aggressive Interior Minister Soleyman Soylu insisting that the defendants were the “pillar of the DHKP/C” and that their imprisonment had helped neutralise the organisation.

Their sentences were strongly criticised by human rights and law organisations, along with the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, (HDP) which denounced “a sham trial” based on the statements of anonymous witnesses and state informants.

The lawyers announced their death fast just days after Grup Yorum singer Helin Bolek lost her life following 288 days on hunger strike. Despite being massive popular in Turkey, the band is outlawed over its alleged association with the DHKP/C.

Ms Timtik and Mr Unsal paid tribute to Ms Bolek and also to those whose lives have been claimed by the global Covid-19 outbreak, which is showing worrying signs of worsening in Turkey.

“These deaths have a connection — they are all part of capitalism’s massacre. This system is massacring us, all of us, in one way or another,” they said.

The CHD also called for the release of all political prisoners held in Turkey’s jails ahead of a government debate due on Tuesday.

An amendment to the third judicial package proposed by the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) could lead to thousands of rapists, paedophiles and prisoners who have committed gender-based violence being freed from jail.

On the pretext of stopping the spread of coronavirus, the emergency measures would see a third of Turkey’s 300,000-strong prison population released on extended probation and with their sentences reduced.

But some 50,000 political prisoners, including HDP politicians, journalists and academics, will remain behind bars despite appeals.

The HDP and the Socialist Party of the Oppressed have demanded the release of those held, branding their continued detention “inhumane.”

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