Twenty-one suspected members of the terrorist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), including nine lawyers affiliated with the Contemporary Lawyers' Association (ÇHD), were arrested and sent to jail early on Monday while several others were released pending trial.
Among the lawyers put under arrest are ÇHD President Selçuk Bozağaçlı and ÇHD İstanbul branch Chairman Taylan Tanay.
The arrests followed a major police crackdown on the terrorist group last week. On Jan. 18, police raided numerous addresses of suspected members of the DHKP/C in several cities, including İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir. Initial reports said the police detained 85 suspects, but police sources later said 97 people were held in custody during the operation. Among those detained were 15 lawyers affiliated with the ÇHD. The lawyers were reportedly held on accusations that they were receiving messages and orders from jailed leaders of the terrorist DHKP/C.
On Sunday İstanbul police sent 40 of the suspects to prosecutors for detailed interrogation. The prosecutors referred 28 suspects to court, requesting their arrest, and released 12 suspects, including members of the left-wing band Grup Yorum. Selma Altın, İnan Altın, Caner Bozkurt, İbrahim Gökçek and Ali Aracı were the band members released in the early hours of Monday.
After the suspects arrived at the Çağlayan Courthouse for questioning by prosecutors, a few deputies of the Republican People's Party (CHP) rushed to the building to show their solidarity with the suspects. A group of critics of the police operation against the terrorist group also convened in front of the courthouse to protest the detentions.
Of the 28 suspects, 12 were arrested. The court ruled that it was not necessary to arrest the remaining 16 suspects, but restricted the ability to travel of seven of them. Sources said two of those released are lawyers.
As the suspects' interrogation at the courthouse continued, a group of protesters clashed with the police. One police officer was slightly injured during the clashes. The officer was taken to a nearby hospital. News sources said the group was protesting the detention of Grup Yorum members. The protesters chanted outside the courthouse “Grup Yorum is the people itself. They cannot be silenced.”
Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions (DİSK) President Erol Ekici was also among the protesting group. He said detentions, suppression and threats would not be able to stop their fight against injustice and corruption. “They want to silence Grup Yorum because the band supports many people, from workers to residents of shanty houses. The [police] operation against the band and ÇHD lawyers is unjust,” he claimed.
Also in the early morning hours of Monday, 26 suspects were sent to a prosecutor's office in İstanbul for an in depth interrogation by prosecutors while 17 other suspects were sent to a prosecutor's office in İzmir. In İzmir, the suspects resisted police as they boarded a bus to take them to court. It was not immediately clear if the suspects were released or sent to court for arrest.
The prosecutors in İstanbul requested the arrest of 10 of the suspects, and the court ruled to arrest nine of them, all lawyers, while one was released pending trial. The lawyer who was released was identified as Efkan Bolaç.
The ÇHD released a statement in which it said the police operation was targeting the association, not the DHKP/C. “We do not accept the accusations directed at us. We will continue to wait in front of the courthouse until all of our friends are set free. All accusations concerning the personalities and political views of members of our association are false,” read the statement.
Suspects attempted to burn documents
In the meantime, the Star daily reported on Monday that some DHKP/C suspects attempted to burn some documents just before the police raided the building. The suspects dumped documents into a stove and they were about to burn them when the police entered the house.
The daily claimed that the documents were about the terrorist group's plans to attack police stations and embassies.
The police operation followed a secret investigation into the DHKP/C launched about nine months ago. The group was also reportedly planning to stage attacks on judges, prosecutors and police chiefs.
In an earlier raid, police officers were unable to enter the ÇHD office due to steel doors. When police managed to enter the office, they discovered that association members had already destroyed many documents that could have served as proof of the association's links to the DHKP/C.
Other news sources said DHKP/C members were collecting information about members of political parties, bureaucrats, judges, prosecutors and retired members of the police force and the military. The terrorist organization was reportedly sending that information to its members abroad, who were then sharing that information with the authorities in other countries.
There is speculation that the contact between DHKP/C members in Turkey and abroad was established by the lawyers detained by police last week. The İstanbul police also reportedly discovered that some journalists, whose names have not been shared with the media yet, were also aiding the DHKP/C.
According to the police, the DHKP/C gave the appearance of being engaged in legal activities under the veil of associations and cultural organizations but was actually working to seize confidential state information and giving it to other countries. The suspects will stand accused of membership in a terrorist organization, police sources said.