Legal harassment against ÇHD lawyers continues

The independent legal profession in Turkey is targeted by the judiciary. The progressive lawyers' organization ÇHD is a frequent target of repression. Two of its members have been ordered to report. They are suspected of terrorism.

The independent legal profession in Turkey continues to be the target of the judiciary. A court in Istanbul has imposed reporting requirements on two lawyers suspected of terrorism.

The lawyers, Naim Eminoğlu and Doğa İncesu, are members of the Association of Progressive Lawyers (ÇHD). Since Tuesday, they have been in police custody in the Vatan Presidium, sadly known for being a notorious torture center, after they had previously been arrested during a search of their apartment by the police anti-terror unit. 

The Istanbul Public Prosecutor's Office accuses the ÇHD lawyers of "membership in a terrorist organization." On Friday, the authorities submitted an application to the relevant criminal chamber for an arrest warrant to be issued against Eminoğlu and İncesu. The court rejected this and ordered police reporting requirements instead as a "preventive measure".

The mechanism is considered an alternative to detention and is used widely by the Turkish judiciary to keep undesirable people under control. The basis is the "release under control" law that came into force in 2013. People from the opposition and civil society are particularly affected.

Eminoğlu and İncesu were freed on Friday evening. However, they must now report to the police regularly and are not allowed to leave the country. It is still unclear whether and when charges will be brought against them.

The ÇHD, meanwhile, condemned the action against its members and the independent legal profession in general, saying it amounts to "lawfare" - that is, warfare by legal means.

The state is subjugating the judiciary in order to persecute political opponents, destroy their reputation and effectively get rid of them, the Istanbul section of the ÇHD said at a press conference on Thursday, adding: "Our legal work is being criminalized as membership in a 'banned organization' and 'terrorism.'"

The involvement of pro-government media in this warfare through smear campaigns also contributes to stigmatizing the lawyers with the aim of neutralizing them. "We will not allow that," said the lawyers.

State repression against ÇHD

The ÇHD association, founded in the 1970s, has been the focus of Turkish repressive authorities for decades. Its members are known for their fight to enforce human and civil rights and mainly take on political mandates, including in trials before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Turkey.

ÇHD chair Selçuk Kozağaçlı, for example, who has been in prison for "terrorism" since 2017, represented the relatives of 54-year-old Metin Lokumcu, who was killed in 2011 during protests against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's election campaign events in the Black Sea coastal region when the police used tear gas. He was also involved in the case of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who was hit in the head by a tear gas canister during the Gezi protests in 2013 and died after nine months in a coma.

He represented the relatives of those killed in the Soma mining accident and survivors and relatives of the victims of the Suruç (Pirsûs) attack. On 20 July 2015, a suicide bomber monitored by the Turkish Secret Service (MIT) carried out an attack on a gathering of socialist youths who wanted to support the reconstruction of the Syrian-Kurdish city of Kobanê. Thirty-three people, mainly young people, were killed.