Turkey lawyer dies in prison after 238 days of hunger strike

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ISTANBUL | A Turkish lawyer died in Istanbul after 238 days of a hunger strike she observed to demand a “fair trial” after a conviction for “terrorism”, sparking outrage in Turkey.

“Ebru Timtik, member of our cabinet, fell martyrdom,” his cabinet, Halkin Hukuk Burosu (“People’s Cabinet”, in Turkish) said Thursday evening on Twitter. She was 42 years old.

Sentenced last year to more than 13 years in prison for “belonging to a terrorist organization”, she went on hunger strike in February to demand a new trial.

Ebru Timtik, who was consuming only sugar water, infusions and vitamins during his hunger strike, weighed 30 kg at the time of his death, according to his relatives.

On Friday, clashes briefly pitted those close to the lawyer and the police when the hearse carrying her body left the Istanbul Forensic Board, where an autopsy was conducted, without the family being able to accompany it.

Police officers used tear gas and repelled the crowd with their shields, according to AFP reporters.

A tribute was nevertheless able to be organized on Friday in front of the Istanbul bar, then a funeral prayer in a cemevi, place of worship of the Alevis, members of a heterodox branch of Islam.

Hundreds of people chanting “Ebru Timtik is immortal” were able to access the cemevi, around which a large police force had been deployed, AFP noted.

Release rejected

Along with Aytac Unsal, a colleague also on hunger strike in prison, Ebru Timtik was a member of the Association of Contemporary Lawyers, specializing in the defense of politically sensitive cases.

The Turkish authorities accuse this association of being linked to the radical Marxist-Leninist organization DHKP-C, a group which has committed several attacks and is described as “terrorist” by Ankara and its Western allies.

Ebru Timtik notably defended the family of Berkin Elvan, a teenager who died in 2014 from injuries received during the anti-government protests in Gezi in 2013.

Last month, an Istanbul court refused to release Ebru Timtik, despite a medical report indicating that his state of health no longer allowed him to remain in prison.

A similar request was also filed in August with the Constitutional Court, without success.

Instead of being released, Ebru Timtik and Mr. Unsal were transferred to two different hospitals in July.

“A shame”

The death of the lawyer moved many representatives of civil society and elected officials in Turkey, but also in Europe.

For Brussels, the death of Ebru Timtik highlights “serious shortcomings” in the Turkish judicial system.

The “tragic” fate of the lawyer “painfully illustrates the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly deal with the human rights situation in the country”, declared Peter Stano, spokesperson for the European Commission.

“This death is a disgrace for the history of Turkish justice,” the Istanbul bar said in a statement on Friday, listing violations of the right to a fair trial suffered by Ebru Timtik and other members of the Association of Contemporary Lawyers.

Replacement of the judges who had ordered their release, verdict announced without the defense being able to express itself properly: their trial was entirely “unfair”, the Istanbul bar was indignant.

“Ebru Timtik was sent to death before our eyes”, also reacted on Twitter Sezgin Tanrikulu, deputy of the CHP (social democrat).

“We lost it because of the blinded conscience of justice and politics. His only wish was for a fair and honest trial, ”he added.

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