FIDH: Authorities are responsible for Ebru Timtik’s death in custody

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT) is shocked and deeply saddened by the death of human rights lawyer Ebru Timtik yesterday, after 238 days of hunger strike while in custody. The Observatory, which is holding the Turkish authorities responsible for her death, calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country, including lawyer Aytaç Ünsal, who has been on hunger strike for over six months and whose health has sharply deteriorated.

Ms. Ebru Timtik, prominent human rights lawyer and member of the Progressive Lawyers’ Association (PLA), died in custody at Dr. Sadi Konuk Training and Research Hospital in Bakırköy, İstanbul, yesterday. In February 2020, she had started a hunger strike to call for a fair trial in her case and that of 18 other human rights lawyers from her organisation currently being prosecuted in Turkey [1].

“The Turkish authorities are responsible for the death of Ms. Ebru Timtik, as they repeatedly rejected all the appeals for her release, constantly denying any risk for her physical security, and any danger to her life ”, declared Alexis Deswaef, human rights lawyer and FIDH Vice President.

Following the Court of Cassation’s August 14th rejection of an appeal for the release of Ms. Timtik, her lawyers lodged a further appeal for her release, on Sunday, August 23, four days before her death.

“The origin of this tragic death is the persecution of rights activists in Turkey that has to end. To start with we need to see the immediate and unconditional release of other lawyers of her law firm, specifically Mr. Aytaç Ünsal, Ms. Ebru Timtik’s colleague, whose case is pending before the Supreme Court and who has also been on hunger strike since February 2020 ,” added Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

In March 2019, Ms. Timtik was sentenced to 13.5 years in prison over trumped-up terrorism-related charges. Her sentence was upheld by an appeals court in October 2019 — a ruling appealed by her lawyers before the Supreme Court; her case was pending at the time of her death. Mr. Aytaç Ünsal was sentenced to 10.5 years in prison, and has been on hunger strike for 205 days. He is currently held in Kanuni Sultan Süleyman Training and Research Hospital, İstanbul, and his health is deteriorating every day. The 17 other PLA human rights lawyers currently facing prosecution represented clients in cases such as the Soma and Ermenek mining massacres, forced relocations due to urban transformation projects, police violence and torture incidents, as well as individuals prosecuted for their opinions.

[1] See Observatory Urgent Appeal TUR 006 / 0620 / OBS 063, published on June 8, 2020, available here: https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/turkey-judicial-harassment-of-19-prominent-human -rights-lawyers-from