The Law Society’s Human Rights Committee has criticised the legal action being taken against 10 members of the Istanbul Bar Association.

After nearly two years of observing the trial of lawyers, journalists, human rights defenders and politicians in Turkey, the committee has raised concerns about due process, the independence of the judiciary and interference with the role of the lawyer in domestic proceedings there.

Member and former chair of the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee Tony Fisher said:

’The members of the Istanbul Bar Association who are now in court for intervening in the Sledgehammer trials are facing jail sentences for an action that was effectively a protest against advocates being prevented from adequately represent their clients in what was a politicised trial.

‘What is of concern in the Sledgehammer trials involving military personnel and their alleged coup attempt is how, during the course of the trials, lawyers were prevented from making representations to the court and neither were they allowed to effectively examine or cross examine witnesses.’

Only in 2007 were new rules introduced in Turkey to allow defence counsel to ask questions and so skills such as examination of witnesses and cross examination have not been included in many lawyers’ professional training.

The Human Rights Committee of the Law Society has also assisted lawyers in Turkey through training courses in Diyarbakir in areas including trial preparation, examination in chief and cross examination in criminal trials. This training was funded by the Law Society Charity and some further funding is available to continue this training in 2014.