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A lawyer left to die in Turkey

A lawyer left to die in Turkey

Not many would know Ebru Timtik in this part of the world, the Kurdish human rights lawyer who died in an Istanbul hospital on August 27 after a 238-day hunger strike while demanding a fair trial from the Turkish authorities.

Arrested on March 22, 2019, Timtik was one of the lawyers of the Progressive Lawyers' Association who were targeted by criminal proceedings in connection with the exercise of their professional activities.

After being tried, convicted and sentenced to 13 years and 6 months in prison on false charges of membership in an armed or terrorist organization, Ebru Timtik began a hunger strike on February 3, earlier this year.

It turned out to be fast unto death, literally. At the time of her passing, it emerged that Timtik weighed just 30 kg.

<img class="wp-image-11686 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Ebru-Timtik.png" alt="" width="892" height="504" /> At the time of her death, Ebru Timtik weighed just 30 kilograms. Her colleague, Aytac Unsal, has also been on a death fast for his right to a fair trial

In a country where democracy has gone for a toss since last many years, Timtik isn't the first victim of a dubious criminal trial which lacked fairness and credibility. In fact, she is the fourth prisoner to die this year as the result of a hunger strike in Turkey, following the deaths of Helin Bolek and Ibrahim Gokcek, two musicians from the Grup Yorum band, and Mustafa Kocak.

"Even as her health continued to deteriorate and in spite of the building international pressure for her release, Turkey left her to die. Ebru (Timtik) was a people's lawyer and martyr for justice," the US-based National Lawyers Guild International Committee, which supports legal work around the world "to the end that human rights and the rights of ecosystems shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests" said in a statement.

Right now, Aytaç Unsal, another colleague of Timtik, is carrying out the same battle for justice and finds himself in a critical condition.

Since the alleged coup attempt in 2016, over 1500 lawyers have been imprisoned by the Turkish regime. The charges relate to their defence of persons who were allegedly associated with opposition to the Turkish Government. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has imposed draconian laws that suppresses human rights and freedoms in Turkey and criminalise the defence by lawyers of persons opposing the government.

Turkey has been widely criticized for its extensive and unjust use of anti-terrorism laws against lawyers, activists, journalists, trade unionists, and intellectuals long before 2016. Their only crime was to defend workers fighting for the labor rights, youth victims of police brutality, community residents fighting for housing rights and against displacement of the poor, and political prisoners of many backgrounds.

"The European Union is deeply saddened by the death of Ebru Timtik… The tragic outcome of their fight for a fair trial painfully illustrates the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly address the human rights situation in the country, which has severely deteriorated in recent years, as well as serious shortcomings observed in the judiciary. Turkey urgently needs to demonstrate concrete progress on the rule of law and fundamental freedoms," noted the EU Commission.

<img class="wp-image-11687 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/bar-association-.jpg" alt="" width="717" height="396" /> A poster with a picture of Timtik was hung outside the headquarters of the Istanbul Bar Association

Such scathing observations would wake up any leader but not Turkey's Erdogan who's hell-bent on destroying the image of his country.

After a picture of Timtik was hung outside the headquarters of the Istanbul Bar Association, he called for the expulsion of lawyers from the profession should they be accused of links to 'terrorism'.

"It (hanging Timtik's poster on the building) meant more than making our martyrs turn in their graves. Attorneys standing with terrorists so recklessly, attending their funeral while wearing robes, releasing declarations in support of them are not acceptable acts," Erdogan said during the opening ceremony of the new judicial year at the Presidential Complex in Ankara.

The deepening human rights crisis in Turkey, with a dramatic erosion of its rule of law and democracy framework in the last four years, has been a huge cause for worry for most of the human rights organizations and the neighboring countries.

No wonder then that Europe continues to distance itself from Turkey.

"Ms Timtik’s death is a tragic illustration of the human suffering caused by a judicial system in Turkey that has turned into a tool to silence lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists, through systematic disregard for the most basic principles of the rule of law. Lawyers have borne the brunt of these developments in their double capacity as human rights defenders and as a fundamental component of an increasingly hostile judicial system," observed Dunja Mijatovic, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, an international organisation whose stated aim is to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.

A few weeks ago, the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) had, after interviewing hundreds of persons who were or had recently been held in police custody, including on suspicion of terrorism-related offences, in the Ankara, Diyarbakır and Istanbul areas, severely criticized Turkey in its two reports.

Clearly, Erdogan's unchecked power has endangered the population of the entire region. They will continue to face the wrath of the authoritarian regime and the 'negative climate' in Turkey will continue to prevail till Erdogan remains in office..