Turkish authorities on Tuesday prevented two members of the Connecticut-based Lawyers Without Borders from observing a hearing in the trial of jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.
Lawyers Per Stadig and Stende Geer reportedly came from Sweden to observe the hearing.
However, they were initially not allowed to enter Sincan Prison, where the hearing was to be held.
The panel of judges decided almost five hours later that they could enter, long after the two lawyers had left the campus, according to the report.
Stadig said he had visited Turkey several times in the past to attend hearings and that he had never encountered this situation.
“I came here for the first time in 1988. In those days, we were even allowed into military courts,” Stadig told Mezopotamya.
He also said the Justice Ministry had not responded to their request for accreditation.
“This is an interesting situation, but actually such a request should not even be necessary,” he said. “In principle, everyone should be able to attend hearings.”
“These trials are more of a political nature than criminal. They were designed to keep HDP politicians behind bars,” Stadig said, referring to the Kurdish movement’s Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), of which Demirtaş is a former co-chair.
Geer said Turkey has lost its judicial independence, particularly after the government conducted a mass purge of judges and prosecutors in the wake of a failed coup in July 2016.
Demirtaş has been jailed since November 2016 on terrorism charges.
A Turkish court found him guilty in September 2018 of disseminating terrorist propaganda and sentenced him to four years, eight months in prison.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled in November of the same year that Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and ordered his release. Turkish courts refused to implement the European court’s ruling, and a regional appeals court in Turkey on Dec. 4 upheld Demirtaş’s sentence.