December 6, 2011


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Since 2009, more than seven thousand people have been taken into custody on the alleged grounds that they are associated with the KCK—an organization claimed to be the urban branch of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Four thousand of them have been arrested and imprisoned without having any prospect of a trial in the foreseeable future in Turkey.

The recent arrest of 51 lawyers representing their clients in KCK cases is a very serious development in these operations, aimed to silence the Kurdish opposition. On 22 November 2011, Turkish police authorities conducted an arrest operation in 16 different provinces. The police raided the lawyers’ offices and houses, searched and confiscated their files, and made copies of their hard drives, unlawfully violating their privileges as lawyers. After their arrests, the lawyers were transferred to Istanbul as the Specialized Heavy Penal Court (formerly known as the State Security Court) issued their arrest warrants. Records of telephone interviews were added to the investigation file, and presented as the main evidence.

Forty-three of the arrested lawyers appeared on 25 November before the investigating judge, but their 100 defense lawyers resigned from defense, as they claimed the whole process is based on unlawful procedures. They did not want to take part in a manifestly unfair process. While some of the lawyers were released, 33 of them currently remain detained.

The arrests constitute a critical threat to the lawyers, and threaten to disable them from continuing to do their work. Furthermore, respect for the professional and independent role of lawyers is an essential precondition for adherence to the rule of law and for democracy.

In accordance with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the UN Congress in Havana in September 1990, governments must:

- Ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional duties, without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference;

- Guarantee that lawyers are not suffering or are threatened with persecution or any other sanctions, simply because of their work as lawyers.

We, lawyers who exercise the legal profession in Greece as well as the Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees of Athens and the Alternative Intervention of Athens Lawyers, therefore urgently demand the immediate release of all of the lawyers currently detained. Turkey must allow them to return to their legitimate role as independent lawyers, with no further intervention or hindrance of their advocacy and representation roles.

Athens , 1 December 2011

The Group of Lawyers for the Rights of Migrants and Refugees

The Alternative Intervention of Athens Lawyers

Download and disseminate the call in English and Greek