June 13, 2013
For nearly three weeks, thousands of protestors have gathered peacefully at Occupy Gezi in Taksim Square in Istanbul. Turkish police have unleashed a brutal crackdown, resulting in three confirmed deaths and nearly 5,000 injured. According to Turkish lawyer Kerem Gulay, a Fulbright Scholar and doctoral student at Cornell Law School, police tactics include excessive beatings with police batons and rifle handles, and the use of pepper spray and other chemicals, rubber bullets, and, allegedly, real bullets.
In order to provide a pretext for police aggression against peaceful protestors, undercover police officers, acting as agents provocateurs, threw Molotov cocktails Tuesday at police, after which police launched a vicious attack on protestors.
A broad coalition of groups courageously gathered in Taksim Square is protesting neoliberal governmental policies, including economic, agricultural and environmental policies, human rights abuses, mass detentions, privatization of water resources, attacks on freedom of the press and on freedom of religion, and the treatment of Kurdish citizens of Turkey. The protestors’ politics range from moderate to center right to nationalist to left liberal to extreme leftist. “All these people have in common,” Gulay told me, “is they are critical of government policies.”
When lawyers were issuing a press statement decrying the mass detentions of their clients, some 50 lawyers were arrested and dragged on the ground by riot police. Many lawyers were injured before they were released 10 hours later. Nearly 3,000 lawyers gathered at the courthouse Tuesday to protest these detentions.
There is an ongoing and dangerous process of criminalization of lawyers in Turkey. Nine of fifteen lawyers arrested on January 18, 2013, for representing unpopular clients, remain in custody without charges or access to legal papers about their cases. On that date, police raided the Istanbul and Ankara offices of the Progressive Lawyers Association (CHD), a member organization of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). Twelve CHD officers or members were violently detained under vague terrorism-related allegations. They were interrogated about their representation of clients. They were denied water and the use of a bathroom.
These arrests, detentions, and seizure of property—including confidential client files—violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The cases are pending in the Special Heavy Penal Courts, which have jurisdiction over “terrorism” proceedings. Their use of secret evidence and repressive procedures have been condemned by several international and regional human rights monitoring bodies and mechanisms. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, who recently visited Turkey, strongly criticized [PDF] the Special Heavy Penal Courts, saying their “special authority” does not comply with human rights standards on fair trial, and they should therefore be abolished.
A group of 500 lawyers who went to the courthouse to protest the lawyers’ detention in January were assaulted by police. The Istanbul Bar Association lambasted the unlawful raids as an “explicit attack towards the legal profession and its honor, as well as the people’s right to legal remedies.”
Continue reading at: http://www.jurist.org/forum/2013/06/marjorie-cohn-turkey-protests.php