Turkey

Turkish lawyers detained in Tajikistan land in Istanbul

Lawyers Gulden Sonmez, and Emine Yildirim and translator Zaur Beg, were detained by police in Dushanbe Friday

Ayşe Hümeyra Atılgan   | 23.01.2016
Turkish lawyers detained in Tajikistan land in Istanbul

Istanbul

By Alp Ertunga Karaca and Emrah Guney

ANKARA

Two Turkish lawyers and a translator, who were detained Friday by Tajikistan police officers, have arrived in Istanbul early Saturday.

The lawyers, Gulden Sonmez and Emine Yildirim, and interpreter Zaur Beg, an Azerbaijani national, were in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, along with a Russian lawyer Dagir Khasavov, in an effort to "announce to the world the unlawful detentions and practices of Tajikistan," a statement by the Turkish Lawyers Association (Hukukcular Dernegi in Turkish) said.

On Wednesday, they travelled to Tajikistan to show solidarity with lawyers from the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan who had been arrested “by the Tajik government”, the statement said. 

Their detention occurred Friday evening following their meeting on Thursday with the relatives and lawyers of certain prisoners. Reportedly, they were all detained Friday at the hotel.

"This is another unlawful practice by the Tajik government," the statement from the Lawyers Association said, adding a letter had previously been sent to the authorities, including to the Turkish embassy in Dushanbe, informing them of the lawyers' visit.

Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had announced late Friday on Twitter that "they would come back to Istanbul with a Turkish Airlines flight".

Yildirim is a member of the International Jurist Union, and Sonmez is a member of the Lawyers Association as well as a board member of the Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH). 

The two Turkish lawyers and the interpreter arrived in Istanbul safe and sound, while the Russian lawyer, who travelled to Tajikistan directly from Moscow, was reportedly waiting for a direct flight to his country. 

Concerns over violation of human rights and freedoms in Tajikistan are not new. 

In a 2015 report on Tajikistan, NGO Freedom House says: "Court proceedings rarely follow the rule of law, and nearly all defendants are found guilty. Police frequently make arbitrary arrests and beat detainees to extract confessions."

Following repeated cases of independent attorneys being imprisoned over the past few years, several lawyers in the country began voicing concerns over illegal imprisonment issues.

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