Turkey's parliament passed a law on July 11 on changing the structure of bar associations. The law was passed with 251 votes in favour in the 600-seat parliament, with only 417 deputies voting. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has 291 seats in the assembly, while its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have 49 seats.
Ülkü Doğanay writes: Maybe in January 2016, if the former prime minister, who now resents his colleagues and who kept quiet before the events regarding Şehir University, had remembered that he was also an academic benefiting from free expression, then universities may not have been in the dark position they are in today.
Lawyers who were waiting outside Ankara's Kuğulu Park to support bar association heads protesting in a sit-in got blocked by police as they marched to parliament. The legal professionals are all in the capital to protest a draft bill on the parliament floor that would dilute bar associations' authorities.
Bar association heads who marched to the capital Ankara to protest a judicial decentralization bill spent the night in a deadlock with the police who has the presidents' sit-in surrounded by a barricade. As lawyers outside the park wanted to join the bar association heads, police banned both entries to and exits from the park.
Police have formed barricades around bar association heads who staged a sit-in at the central Kuğulu Park in the capital Ankara in protest of a government bill allowing for the formation of multiple bar associations in each province. Lawyers who came to the area in support of the bar association heads slammed the police's action saying the park cannot be closed off to the public.
HDP deputies have protested a bill on decentralizing bar associations via reading Molierac's words in parliament. "While performing our duties, we adhere to nobody; not to the client, not to the judge and nor to the government. We do not claim that there are people below our level," they said.
The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) has said that the multiple bar system will yield similar damages as the presidential system. "Previously, a presidential system was integrated to the country and the harms of a one-man regime is seen. The Turkish-type multiple bar model was brought to the country's agenda. It's utterly dangerous to impose a system that will lead to problems," the party said.
A group of lawyers last week made a trademark application for the name “Ankara Right and Justice Bar,” although the legislation allowing decentralization of bar associations has not yet been voted on in Turkey's parliament. A main opposition CHP MP slammed this move, saying the “division” of Ankara Bar Association has already started.
The Turkish parliament's Justice Commission passed a controversial bill early on July 6 that would allow decentralization of bar associations amid intense criticism. The draft bill is set to be voted in parliament on July 9 and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is planning to take it to the Constitutional Court for annulment if the articles on decentralizing bars are approved.
Ankara police on July 3 fired tear gas and used shields against bar association heads and lawyers attempting to stage a march in defiance of a government bill seeking to decentralize bar associations. On the same day, another group of bar associations continued their vigil outside parliament, demanding to partake in the Justice Commission's discussions concerning the new legislation. A journalist reporting on the gathering was detained.
Bar association heads waiting outside parliament, demanding to be included in gov’t bill discussions
Twenty bar association heads have been waiting outside the parliament building, demanding to partake in Justice Commission discussions over a draft bill seeking to decentralize bar associations. The police encircled the area where bar association heads are waiting with safety strips, confining them to an area of less than 20 square meters.
Ankara governor’s office bans demonstrations ahead of bar associations’ planned ‘Great Defense Meeting’
The Ankara governor’s office on July 2 banned all demonstrations and protests in the province for two weeks, citing the fight against the novel coronavirus. The ban came just a day before lawyers' planned “Great Defense Meeting” in the province in defiance of the government's plan to decentralize bar associations.
Parliamentary commission declines lawyers’ demand to take part in discussions on bar associations bill
The Parliamentary Justice Commission has declined seven bar association presidents' demand to be included in discussions over a draft bill seeking to change the election system of bars' administrations and open the way to the establishment of alternative associations in each province. “They do not even want us there while the draft bill, which was prepared without even our opinions being consulted, is being discussed,” Kocaeli Bar Association President Bahar Gültekin said.
President Erdoğan has said that his ruling AKP government's bill which aims to decentralize bar associations will be submitted to the Parliament on June 30. 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.
The Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) is planning a march to protest a draft bill that would divide large cities' bar associations into smaller institutions. 31 bar associations in Turkey have officially opposed the proposed legislation, and some bar heads attempted a march against in earlier in June.