Turkish bar associations prepared to protest gov't attempt to weaken powers

Seventy-nine Turkish bar associations issued a joint statement on Tuesday, calling for the government to revoke a bill that would significantly decrease the authorities of bar associations, T24 news site reported.

The bar associations said they are prepared to hold a democratic protest unless the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, keeps its doors open to dialogue and negotiations with regard to the planned regulation.

Erdoğan’s ruling AKP is currently working on a draft bill seeking to change the election system for the administrations of bar associations through proportional representation, paving the way for the formation of city-specific alternative associations that could send delegates to the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TTB).

The move would effectively allow for alternative bar associations to decrease the voting weight of the largest associations, known for their criticism of Erdoğan’s government.

The joint statement follows a meeting between the 80 bar association heads held at the TTB headquarters in capital Ankara.

Heavy criticisms were levelled at TTB President Metin Feyzioğlu, over his refusal to read the joint statement, T24 said.

The bar associations also accused Feyzioğlu of having prior knowledge of and siding with the government on the bill.

Turkey is ranked 109th out of 126 countries according to the 2019 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index.

Since 2016, more than 1500 lawyers have been prosecuted, more than 600 detained, and 345 convicted of various crimes as part of a government crackdown, according to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative.