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Home Europe Turkey frees hunger striker after colleague's death in jail

Turkey frees hunger striker after colleague’s death in jail

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image copyrightPeople’s Law Bureau/Twitter

image captionAytac Unsal was pictured leaving hospital on Thursday by colleagues from Istanbul’s People’s Law Bureau

A week after human rights lawyer Ebru Timtik died after 238 days on hunger strike, her colleague has been released on the order of Turkey’s supreme court.

Aytac Unsal, 32, had been on hunger strike for 213 days and was critically ill in hospital in Istanbul.

The court ruled that extending his detention would endanger his life.

Like Timtik, he was jailed on terrorism charges that he denied. Both lawyers had been given long prison sentences, criticised by rights and legal groups.

Ebru Timtik had been given more than 13 years in jail and her colleague 10 years and six months on allegations of terror offences for their links to an outlawed Marxist group. The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) has carried out several deadly attacks.

When they and 16 other lawyers were jailed for their ties to the banned group in March 2019, Amnesty International said the convictions were a travesty of justice based on a politically motivated prosecution.

image copyrightReuters

image captionPresident Erdogan was infuriated when lawyers unfurled a banner depicting dead lawyer Ebru Timtik last week

Timtik’s death was met with an outcry from supporters in Turkey, including the left-wing group that both she and Mr Unsal have been members of – the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association.

By the time she died she was said to have weighed only 30kg (66lbs). Before her funeral, police used tear gas to disperse supporters who tried to enter the Istanbul forensic laboratory where her body was being kept.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticised the Istanbul Bar Association for draping an image of Timtik outside its headquarters earlier this week.

“A lawyer who defends terrorists should not be a terrorist,” he said, suggesting there should be a way of expelling lawyers from their profession.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionEbru Timtik was reported to have weighed only 30kg when she died

Mr Unsal’s father then appealed to Turkish authorities to release his 32-year-old son, whom he described as “on his death bed”.

“The tragic outcome of their fight for a fair trial painfully illustrates the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly address the human rights situation,” the EU said in a statement.

The president of the European Court of Human Rights, Robert Spano, met President Erdogan on Thursday and called on Turkey to respect the rule of law.

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