Müzeyyen Yüce / Duvar

Bar association heads have filed a lawsuit against Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu for authorizing the Ankara police to stop their Defense March and to block them from walking into the capital city.

The criminal complaint petition submitted by the Antalya and Gaziantep bar association heads to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office accused Soylu, Ankara Governor Vasip Şahin, Ankara Police Chief Servet Yılmaz and the relevant police officers at the scene of the incident of “depriving the bar heads of their liberty” and “imposing torture and ill-treatment on them.”

The petition said that bar association heads’ entry into Ankara was denied in an unlawful way and the police prevented them from getting even basic necessities such as food during their 26-hour-long stand-off at the entrance of the city.

Gaziantep Bar Association head Bektaş Şarklı also brought charges of “deliberate injury” in his petition saying that he had been hit with a riot shield and was punched in the nose.

“Bar association heads have been physically battered in an unlawful way and threatened. As the Gaziantep bar association head, they have battered me by punching me on the nose and hitting me with a riot shield,” read the petition filed by Şarklı.

Saying that the right to hold a march is secured by the Constitution, Şarklı further noted: “It is not possible to speak of democracy in a country where the right to hold a meeting and demonstration is not secured.” Şarklı said that the slaps and punches that hit the bar association heads were in fact “inflicted on a society of 82 million people, 136,000 lawyers.”

Some 60 bar heads launched a Defense March on June 19 against increasing pressure from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). They planned to end their march at Ankara’s Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

On June 22, Ankara police stopped the march by barricading a highway leading to the city, and footage showed the heads of bar associations being pushed and jostled by police.

The lawyers started a sit-in protest following the blockade.

The police said that the march was not granted a permission from the Ankara governor’s office and was in violation of social distancing rules due to the novel coronavirus.

Bar heads shared videos and pictures throughout the early hours of June 23, saying that police seized raincoats and food sent to them. They also said that police ordered nearby restaurants and cafes to shut down to prevent bar heads from using their restrooms.

The Interior Ministry eventually early on June 23 allowed bar heads to continue their march to Ankara following a 26-hour-long stand-off.

The harsh intervention of the police against the bar association heads was highly criticized, as the right to hold a march is secured by the laws.

In the face of criticism, the General Directorate of Security, affiliated to the Interior Ministry, on June 24 issued a statement saying that the police “acted in accordance with the legislation.”