Mass trial of Öcalan’s lawyers to be observed by UK barristers

ANF – ISTANBUL 18.12.2013 – The seventh hearing in a long-running trial against the legal representatives of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who is currently in talks with the Turkish government to resolve the 30-year-old Kurdish ­Turkish conflict, will take place on Thursday.

A delegation of leading barristers and solicitors from the UK will attend the trial, which will take place Silivri prison complex in the largest courthouse in the world, along with another two dozen international trial monitors from across Europe. The UK delegation includes human rights barristers Mark Jones (St Ives Chambers) and Margaret Owen OBE (9 Bedford Row Chambers); lawyer Sasha Zernova, representative of the Solicitors International Human Rights Committee; as well as Claire Fourel, lawyer at Ashurst; and barrister Alex Haines (Bretton Woods Law Chambers).

The trial has already been heavily criticised by international legal groups for failing to adhere to standards of international law and for breaching the European Convention on Human Rights.

The 36 defendants were members of Ocalan’s legal team at the time of their arrest in simultaneous police raids in November 2011. They have been accused, under Turkey¹s anti-terrorism legislation, of being members of a ‘leadership committee’ within the PKK and of passing orders from their client to other PKK members. The PKK remains a banned organisation in Turkey, as well as in the EU, the UK and the US, despite the government engaging in peace talks with the organisation throughout this year.

The lawyers deny all the charges and contend that they have only acted in accordance with their professional duties, for which they are now being cynically criminalised. The trial is one of dozens of mass political trials of Kurdish intellectuals, media workers, trade unionists, academics and politicians. To date more than 8,000 people have been arrested as part of the government’s attack on Kurdish civil society, with the majority facing terrorism charges. Turkey’s counterterrorism operations have led to the country holding the world’s largest number of prisoners convicted of terrorism and the country has been widely criticised for using the dangerously broad anti-terror law to quell anti-government dissent.