President of the Law Society Jonathan Smithers has written to the Turkish minister of justice to express his concerns over the arrest of prominent human rights lawyer and president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association Tahir Elçi.

The ‘investigation’ into Tahir Elçi began following a television interview during which he stated his opinion that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is not a terrorist organisation, but rather an armed political movement with political demands that has a lot of supporters.

On 20 October 2015 Tahir Elçi was arrested at the offices of the Diyarbakir Bar Association by anti-terror police. He is being investigated for allegedly ‘making propaganda for, or promoting a terrorist organisation’.

Jonathan Smithers’ letter is intended to remind the minister of justice of certain international obligations to which Turkey is subject with a view to his intervening in the matter to ensure that justice is done and both domestic and international legal norms with regard to freedom of expression are respected.

Lawyers 4 Lawyers, together with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and Fair Trial Watch, have also called upon the minister of justice and the prime minister of Turkey to make sure that the investigation against Tahir Elçi is dropped immediately and unconditionally, and that all conditions restricting his liberty and movement are removed.

The organisations strongly object to the way that the president of the Bar Association of Diyarbakir is being treated. Lawyers are entitled to freedom of expression as set out in article 23 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.


Read full letter attached.