UNITED KINGDOM: Turkey requests extradition of British lawyer Özca Keleş
Özcan Keleş is a British lawyer of Turkish origin. In 2016, in his quality of President of the Dialogue Society, he testified before the British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, during a session concerning “the Gülenists and the role of the HDP [People’s Democratic Party]”.
In May 2019, the Turkish judiciary issued an extradition request against M. Keleş, who was arrested on May 20th by the British police and presented to a Westminster court on charges of alleged propaganda for a terrorist organization.
The lawyer is accused by the Turkish government of belonging to the Fetullah Gülen movement, to which the 2016 failed coup d’état is imputed. He is notably suspected of having visited Fettulah Gülen in the United States and to have published photos and videos of the preacher on social media. Turkish authorities announced that he was incurring 10 years of imprisonment.
This extradition request is an extension of the numerous similar requests issued by the Turkish regime against its opponents living abroad. Yet, all these requests had been rejected by the British authorities, who considered them inadmissible because of their political character. It is for instance the case of the media owner Hamdi Akın İpek, whise extradition was refused in April 2019.
The OIAD fully supports M. Keleş and firmly condemns the extradition request issued by Turkish authorities against him, as well as his arrest by British authorities.
The OIAD calls on these authorities to comply with the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, according to which “lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.” (Principle n° 23)
The OIAD expresses its support to all the Turkish lawyers who are targeted by the regime due to the legitimate exercise of their profession.
Who are we?
The International Observatory for Lawyers in Danger was created by the National Bar Council (France), the Paris Bar (France), the Consejo General de la Abogacía Espanola (Spain), and the Consiglio Nazionale Forense (Italy). Its goal is to conduct a constant monitoring on lawyers facing threats around the world because they lawfully practice their profession and to provide assistance to attorneys whose lives, freedom or practice are threatened.