Getting arrested in a foreign country can cause a lot of distress for both the arrested person and his/her close relatives for several reasons. While the language barrier prevents an understanding of the ongoing situation neither the detainee nor their relatives knows anything about the Turkish law and the system. This short article aims to briefly inform an arrested person and their close relatives of the process they will undergo.
According to the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code an arrest begins with custody which means the temporary restriction and detention of the person in order to complete the proceedings against the arrested person in a manner that will not harm his / her health within the legal period until the decision of release before the competent judge or according to the prosecution.
This phase is at utmost importance because the statement of the detainee is taken at this stage which determines whether the detainee will be arrested or not.
In other words a precondition for an arrest is custody which can last up to 24 hours unless there is a collective crime or crime of terrorism in which case the custody may be prolonged up to four days.
During this 24-hour period it is vital to have access to a lawyer with experience in criminal law and who has the language skills necessary to advise their client on the legal process they are being subject to.
To briefly explain the arrest and custody procedure in Turkey; the arrested person will be taken to a doctor for examination so that his/her health condition is determined before taking them to the detention room. The aim is to prevent allegations of and actions of any kind of torture and ill-treatment. Therefore the suspect is mandated to be taken to a doctor's examination both before the detention and the exit procedures take place.
An attorney will ensure that there hasn’t been any kind of torture and ill-treatment by being able to meet the detainee in a private room where the detainee can freely express him/herself. Before the formal statement is taken, the attorney informs the detainee of his/her rights, listens to his/her complaints, and prepares the detainee for the formal statement while preparing a formal legal defence. Therefore it is very important for the attorney to have a good command of English and to have experience in working with foreign clients.
Your Rights if Arrested in Turkey
A frequent question we receive is whether the detainee has the right to meet his/her relatives. Meeting with a detainee is a right only available to his lawyer. Relatives or friends do not have the right to meet with the person in custody. Yet the detainee has the right to their relatives notified of their detention. Often it is that person who contacts Advocate Abroad on behalf of the person who has been arrested.
Another question our clients ask is regarding the notification of their embassy. It is mandatory for the police or the prosecution to notify the embassy unless the detainee demands otherwise in a written form. However there is an exception to this rule; if the detainee is a citizen of Russia, Lithuania, China, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan or Uzbekistan the embassy will only be notified if this is formally requested by the detainee. Lastly the detainee has the right to a translator during each procedure, including statement taking.
The detainee has the right to the legal assistance of an attorney as well as the right to “choose” an attorney. In case the detainee does not know any lawyer, the Turkish government will be able to appoint a legal aid lawyer to assist him/her only if the alleged crime carries a punishment of five-years or more imprisonment.
So, if a friend or family member is arrested in Turkey, they will be assisted with a legal aid lawyer only when detained on suspicion of serious crimes. We do not recommend a legal aid lawyer since this lawyer cannot be chosen which means neither the detainee nor the relatives can be sure that this professional is used to working with foreign clients or indeed, if they can speak English.
The only information we require is either an investigation file number or a court reference number in order to examine the documents, which will contain the evidence and charges against the arrested person.
Despite modern times, it is very worth caring for a proper English-speaking lawyer onbeforehand eventually being arrested in Turkey rather than having to make use of this dreadful list...