Turkish interior minister urges mass arrest of lawyers

Turkish interior minister urges mass arrest of lawyers
A+ A-
"The PKK will cease to exist in Turkey once its lawyers are thrown in jail; the lawyers should be the target," minister Suleyman Soylu has told an audience of police officers.

A week ahead of the presidential election runoff, Turkish interior minister Suleyman Soylu said that the lawyers of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) should be thrown in jail in order to put an end to the activities of the PKK in Turkey.

Addressing an audience of police officers at a meeting in Istanbul on Sunday, Soylu said that the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C) was crippled after the arrest of the group's lawyers.

DHKP-C is a Marxist-Leninist group that has been involved in armed action since 1980s, and has claimed responsibility for a number of assassinations including that of former Turkish prime minister Nihat Erim in 1980. It also carried out a suicide bombing attack in 2013 on the US Embassy in Ankara, at which a security guard was killed.

Soylu said:

"Only one thing can cripple the PKK in Turkey. I'm telling this as an interior minister with experience: It can be done only by throwing in jail PKK lawyers, just like DHKP-C lawyers. We jailed DHKP-C lawyers and significantly limited the activities of DHKP-C. The PKK is poisoning Turkey particularly by means of its lawyers."

He added:

"You will see, the PKK will cease to exist in Turkey once its lawyers are thrown in jail. The lawyers should be the target. That's very clear. It is so, because they are the elements, who, like DHKP-C lawyers, serve as the conveyor of information, of hatred, of discord from prisons to outside, from outside to prisons, and from a point outside to another point. They are the elements who try to hold up the entire operation of the organization."

He continued:

"These are in fact not lawyers. They do not practice the profession. What they practice is unfortunately the membership of a terrorist group. They are only disguised as lawyers. They test Turkey with terrorism with some privileges granted to lawyers."

Bar association reacts

The Bar Association of Diyarbakir reacted to Soylu's remarks, saying on Monday that the remarks amounted to criminalizing lawyers' profession.

Noting that Soylu earlier claimed, upon the detention of 25 lawyers in Diyarbakir on 24 April, that the detainees were lawyers for a terrorist organization, The bar association said:

"We are aware that these unfortunate and incriminating remarks of the interior minister signify a fresh threat of prosecution. We are now going through a process in which fundamental rights and freedoms are violated arbitrarily, and rights defenders including lawyers, along with their professional associations and NGOs, face judicial harassment."

It added:

"We want to announce yet again that we do not accept the incriminating discourse against our profession."