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In the 1970s, Hillary defended a child rapist. Later audio recordings showed that she knew him to be guilty. But as difficult as it must have been for him to associate with such a criminal, we acknowledge that people accused of crimes — even if obviously guilty — have the right to an attorney. And as much as it may gall us in some instances, we can’t rightly criticize attorneys who take such cases. John Adams defending the British soldiers charged in the Boston Massacre is perhaps the most notable instance.
But while we can hold an attorney blameless for taking the case of a criminal suspect, there are other cases where the attorney should be blamed. A case in point: Ralf Hoecker, Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s German lawyer, who is trying to use the law to silence Erdoğan’s critics in Germany, starting with a TV comedian who read an insulting poem. Not only is this an assault on the liberty of the lawyer’s fellow citizens, but Erdoğan is notorious for silencing critics in his own country by jailing reporters and even seizing whole newspapers.
In other words, Hoecker is serving a dictator — and not merely selling him jewelry or providing accounting services — but actually serving as an accomplice to Erdoğan’s tyrannical conduct.
Hoecker is banal about his service to evil; in an interview this week about the case, he was specifically asked “So for you there are no moral boundaries?” and answered “every person has a right to legal representation.” If a Turkish terrorist were brought up on criminal charges in Germany, that would be true. But a foreign dictator who has forcibly suppressed dissent in his own country has no right to representation to assist him to bend Germany to his will.
In that same interview, Hoecker justifies his conduct by asking rhetorically whether doctors should refuse to treat controversial patients. But that’a the wrong analogy. Instead, What Hoecker is doing is comparable to a doctor assisting in the torture of a political opponent. The man is depraved and ought to be shunned.
Whatever the propriety of Senator Lindsey Graham’s “Shut up! You don’t get a lawyer!” outburst a few years back, the phrase should be translated into Turkish (and other languages) for lawyers to hand out to dictators trying to use the institutions of the West to further their knavish designs.