The Haldane Society notes with serious concern that the lawyers, Irfan Dündar and Firat Aydinkaya, who act on behalf of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, have been sentenced in Istanbul for "spreading propaganda for a terror organisation".
The Istanbul 10th High Criminal Court gave both lawyers prison sentences of ten months each (which was suspended for five years because of "good conduct and no previous criminal record"). At the same time the same court acquitted former Democratic Society Party (DTP) MP Aysel Tugluk of similar charges.
Ocalan's lawyers were sentenced because of the appearance of a newspaper article entitled "A chance for Öcalan" published in Özgür Gündem on 29 and 30 April 2009. The court stated that the article included phrases made by Dündar and Aydinkakya such as "The lawyers conveyed Öcalan's opinion on the developments within KONGRA-GEL (PKK)", "He is experiencing the pain of change" and "Öcalan's opinions are important for an enduring peace".
Informed by the findings of a number of its members who participated in an International Delegation to Turkey in February 2008, the Haldane Society firmly believes that the sentence reflects the intolerable conditions under which lawyers acting for the Kurdish leader have been subject since his apprehension in 1999 and the subsequent trial.
Unfortunately, it is nothing new for not only have they been subjected to various forms of harassment and intimidation while performing their normal professional duties and seeking to represent their client, they have been treated as terror suspects themselves.
The fact is that Turkish law as presently constituted permits such charges to be routinely brought against lawyers simply for putting across the case of their client.
The Haldane Society considers that this situation is utterly unacceptable and will continue to publicise the cases of, and express solidarity with, those lawyers seeking to perform their professional duties in the most difficult of circumstances.