Tony Fisher, Senior Partner of QualitySolicitors FJG, and member of the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee, attended the on-going mass trial of Kurdish & Turkish Lawyers in Istanbul on 3rd January 2013 as part of an international group of observers from England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.
As reported in the Guardian, the trial has raised concern among the international legal community about the state of justice in one of NATO’s more powerful members with Turkey also a member of the Strasbourg Council of Europe. The latest hearing on January 3rd was the continuation of a case from November 2012 when 46 Kurdish lawyers appeared alongside other professionals on terrorist charges.
The trial has arisen out of their position of having at some point acted as representatives of the imprisoned Kurdish Leader Abdullah Ocalan and they are accused of passing on Ocalan’s orders to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PPK). The trial court is based in a prison outside the city. All the accused lawyers most of whom remain in prison, deny the charges.
Tony Fisher’s report on the latest hearing suggested that the case breaches the United Nation’s Basic Principles on the Roles of Lawyers, adopted by UN in 1990. As Mr Fisher points out, this states that “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their client’s causes as a result of discharging their functions”.
One of the significant issues disclosed during the trial is that conversations between lawyers and clients that in the UK would be considered private, have been intercepted by the Turkish authorities.
Commenting on this, Tony Fisher said, “The methods used to collate evidence are clearly in breach of fundamental elements of legal professional privilege. Routine recording of privileged interviews is perhaps the most fundamental breach of the lawyer/client relationship.”
When peace talks between the PKK and the Turkish government in Oslo are said to have collapsed, the lawyers were arrested and the trial began in July 2012. The peace talks have since been revived but there is no sign of the mass trial of lawyers being called off. The next hearing is scheduled for March 28th.
As Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’
For more Information on the case and on the Law Society, please visit http://international.lawsociety.org.uk/node/12507