The Court of Cassation, Turkey’s high court of appeals, has upheld the prison sentences delivered to 14 lawyers from the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD), Bianet reported on Sept. 15. Among these 14 lawyers is also Aytaç Ünsal, who was released on the 213th day of his hunger strike calling for a fair trial.
The top appeals court said that the files of three other ÇHD lawyers should be reevaluated considering the nature of charges against them. As for the file of Ebru Timtik, who lost her life on the 238th day of her hunger strike while demanding a fair trial, the court said that there is no reason to hand down a judgement for her due to her death.
The 18 ÇHD lawyers were sentenced to membership of the banned Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP/C) in a ruling handed down in March 2019. But the trial was said to be highly politicized, with Turkish Minister Süleyman Soylu insisting that the lawyers were the “pillar of the DHKP/C.”
Several human rights and law organisations slammed the sentences, saying that the lawyers received these sentences for providing legal defense to political prisoners in Turkish jails. The lawyers then took their case to the Court of Cassation, demanding that they be acquitted of all the charges.
As their case were pending before the Court of Cassation, four ÇHD lawyers started a hunger strike on Feb. 3, in protest of the long jail sentences they have been sentenced to. The ÇHD reported in April that Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal turned their hunger strikes into death fasts. Timtik lost her life late on Aug. 27 in hospital, with her death meeting an outcry from supporters.
Following Timtik’s death, the Court of Cassation ruled that extending her colleague Ünsal’s arrest would endanger his life, therefore releasing him on the 213th day of his hunger strike while he was critically ill in hospital in Istanbul.
The People’s Law Bureau (HHB) issued a statement regarding the Court of Cassation’s decision saying that the upholding of prison sentences for 14 ÇHD lawyers shows how Turkey turned into a country of “unlawfulness.”
“We do not recognize this unlawful decision! We will make a statement with regards to the relevant decision later,” it said.