Disturbing new details have emerged of the scale of the Turkish government’s clamp-down on the independent legal profession following the failed coup in 2016. According to the Arrested Lawyers campaign group, 1,539 lawyers have been prosecuted, 103 sentenced to prison terms of up to 11 years and 580 remain in custody.

Lawyers have been detained in 77 of the country’s 81 provinces, the report, Incarceration of Turkish Lawyers, states. Victims include 14 presidents or former presidents of provincial bar associations. Among them is the former president of the Konya Bar Association, Fevzi Kayacan, who was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison last year.

Like others, Kayacan was sentenced by first instance courts under articles of the Turkish Penal Code relating to membership and activities in support of an armed terrorist organisation. Arrested Laywers says the law’s lack of legal definitions make it prone to arbitrary application.

‘Vague formulation of the criminal provisions on the security of the state and terrorism and their overly broad interpretation by  Turkish judges and prosecutors make all lawyers and other human rights defenders a prospective victim of judicial harassment,’ the report states.

The campaign group says that lawyers are being persecuted for acting with integrity on behalf of their clients.

The Law Society of England and Wales is among the legal bodies around the world to have condemned the arrests and jailings, the group says, appealing for international solidarity. ‘Arrested lawyers and human rights defenders who have to suffer inhumane treatment at the hands of Turkish officials desperately need such action from European organizations.

‘Any effort in support of arrested lawyers, human rights defenders and other victims of the Turkish government’s unlawful actions is highly appreciated.’

MICHAEL CROSS

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