Statement signed by the Union of Bar Associations and 72 provincial bar associations urges Supreme Court of Appeals to order release without any delay

72 bar associations and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations published on 6 August 2019 a joint statement calling for the release of former Cumhuriyet newspaper employees who have been behind bars for over 100 days.

The statement was first published with signatures of presidents of 63 provincial bar associations, while the number rose to 72 later in the day. President of the Union of Bar Associations Metin Feyzioğlu also joined the signatories subsequently. As of 6 August, all of the 79 bar associations in Turkey, except seven, signed the statement. The bar associations that signed the statement represent about 90 percent of all lawyers in Turkey.

Former Cumhuriyet columnists and employees Güray Öz, Önder Çelik, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Emre İper, who were sentenced to less than five years in prison in Cumhuriyet trial, had to return to prison on 25 April 2019 to serve the remainder of their sentences after their convictions were upheld by an appellate court in February 2019. Under current laws, convictions that entail less than five years in prison become final if they are upheld by an appellate court and thus cannot be appealed at the Supreme Court of Appeals.

In July 2019, the Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals requested the convictions of Orhan Erinç, Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Hikmet Çetinkaya, Aydın Engin and Ahmet Şık, who were sentenced to more than five years in prison in the same Cumhuriyet trial, to be reversed and all defendants except Şık to be acquitted. The Office of the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals also said the acquittal decision should apply to all other co-defendants who were given less than five years in jail, except Emre İper, as well.

The statement said that the recently unveiled Judicial Reform Strategy also touched upon the injustice created by the failure to bring certain rulings before the Supreme Court of Appeals but that Parliament went into recess without taking any measure to correct it.

“Unfortunately, it will not be possible to compensate for the injustice that the newspaper executives will have suffered even if the Supreme Court of Appeals delivers a verdict in line with the prosecutor’s opinion,” it said, calling on the relevant Supreme Court of Appeals chamber on duty to issue a decision ordering the release of the imprisoned Cumhuriyet employees without waiting for the ongoing judicial recess to end.

“We call on the Supreme Court to immediately interfere in this heavy injustice that has deeply injured the public’s conscience,” the statement concluded.

Full text of the statement (in Turkish) along with a list of signatories can be accessed here.

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