TURKEY: Death of lawyer Ebru Timtik after 238 days on hunger strike for the simple demand of a fair trial
Human rights lawyer Ebru Timtik had stopped taking supplements on April 5th, beginning a fast until death. Our colleague Aytac Unsal, for his part, is on his 208th day of hunger strike.
Ebru Timtik and Aytac Unsal had been hospitalized since July 30th, 2020. The expertise had very clearly concluded that it was impossible to keep them in detention because of their state of health. However, the court refused to order their release and ordered their hospitalization. The Constitutional Court justified its decision on the basis that there was no risk of death.
Ebru Timtik died on August 27th, 2020. She fought all her life for justice and the rule of law. She simply demanded a fair trial. This did not happen at her trial, observers are clear.
On March 20th, 2019, she had been sentenced to 13 years in prison for “terrorism” even though she had only courageously exercised her profession as a lawyer.
Among the cases of her law firm (the People’ s Law Office) was that of Berkin Elvan, 15 years old, killed during the demonstrations in Gezi Park. He had been shot in the head by a tear gas canister fired by a police officer; the case of Dilek Doğan, a young woman shot by a police officer during an anti-terrorist operation in her home on October 18th, 2015. Finally, the firm represented Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, two educators unjustly dismissed from their positions. The lawyers had been arrested two days before the educators’ trial, which was scheduled to begin on September 14th, 2017.
The case is part of a growing crackdown on lawyers in Turkey, including members of the People’s Law Office (HHB) and/or the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), who are routinely arrested and intimidated. Moreover, Ebru Timik was convicted along with 17 other lawyers.
The Turkish authorities ignored numerous calls for their release. In a letter of May 4th, 2020, the OIAD had called on the Turkish authorities to release the Turkish lawyers, who were excluded from the application of the amnesty law. We will continue to mobilize so that Aytac Unsal is released.
The OIAD expresses its deep sadness at the death of a colleague who dedicated her life and profession to the strengthening of human rights in Turkey.
The OIAD strongly deplores the criminalization by the Turkish authorities of any action in favor of human rights.
The OIAD would like to remind the Turkish authorities that under the terms of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers of the United Nations (1990) :
“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics” (Principle n°16).
“Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions” (Principle n°18).
Interview of Çiğdem Akbulut, member of the defence team of lawyers Ebru Timtik and Aytac Ünsal (early august):