President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is going to submit its bill seeking a change to the organization of bar associations to parliament on June 30 morning.
“We will not give a chance to those who think nothing of the society’s interests for their own petty interests. We come across such an example with regards to the reform that we would like to undertake about professional bodies and bar associations,” Erdoğan said on June 29, following a cabinet meeting.
“The structures of the bar associations and professional bodies are causing fascist implementations. This is why we are focusing on [formation of] multiple bar associations. Our deputies are submitting the relevant bill tomorrow,” Erdoğan said.
If the draft bill becomes law, lawyers will be allowed to form additional bar associations in provinces with more than 5,000 registered lawyers. New associations would need a minimum of 2,000 members.
A majority of bar associations however oppose the bill, saying that it will limit their associations’ power of oversight. For example, they may hesitate to penalize members who violate ethics if that were to push their association below the minimum membership threshold, they say. The bar associations also say that the legislation is an attempt to divide, scatter and control them.
Police stop İzmir Bar Association’s protest march
Meanwhile, the İzmir Bar Association lawyers on June 29 attempted to stage a protest march defying the government’s legislation. However, the police prevented them from doing so, placing barricades in front of the bar association’s building in the Alsancak district. The lawyers said that they will stage a sit-in protest until the barricades are lifted to allow them march to Kıbrıs Şehitleri Avenue.
İzmir Bar Association head Özkan Yücel told the police to “act in line with the law” as the right to stage protests is secured by the Constitution. “You [the police] are committing crime. You do not have the right to do this to İzmir, to Turkey,” Yücel told the police at the scene of the incident.
“Like in Ankara, until the police barricades are lifted, we are not going anywhere. We will continue to stay here,” Yücel said.
Following Yücel’s remarks, the police addressed the lawyers through a megaphone saying: “We are struggling with the coronavirus, you are putting the society’s health in danger.”
A group of senior lawyers on June 19 launched a Defense March against the government’s legislation attempting to weaken bar associations. 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 Interior Ministry eventually early on June 23 allowed bar heads to continue their march to Ankara following a 26-hour-long stand-off.