Turkish lawyers protest bill on bar associations in Istanbul

Thousands of lawyers held a rally in front of Istanbul’s main courthouse shortly after a government proposed bill to amend laws on how bar associations operate was introduced to parliament.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) submitted on Tuesday legislation to parliament proposing amendments to Turkish laws on attorneys and bar associations, Artı Gerçek news site reported.

The draft bill would allow more than one professional association for lawyers to be formed in Turkey’s 81 provinces, instead of the present permit for a single regional bar association, a move critics say is an attempt to silence lawyers critical of the AKP government.

Erdoğan maintains the changes will make bar associations “more democratic and pluralist."

Police formed a barricade around the Çağlayan courthouse to prevent the lawyers from gathering, Artı Gerçek said.

“They are trying to divide a sphere in which they cannot be in power… Let them do what they want, the defence is indivisible, the defence will win,” Artı Gerçek quoted the lawyer Efkan Bolaç as saying. 

Istanbul Bar Association President Mehmet Durakoğlu said that many unions and organizations attended the rally.

“This work has no end. We stand together today,” Durakoğlu said.

Meanwhile, 20 bar association heads representing 80 bar associations held a press conference in Bilkent Hotel in Ankara.

The heads of the associations announced they would be holding a rally in Ankara in protest of the bill on July 3.

The head of the Amasya Bar Association said the draft bill, “paved the way of the politicisation of bar associations,’’ Artı Gerçek said.

Earlier this month, the presidents of 80 bar associations in Turkey launched a protest march from their respective provinces towards capital Ankara to protest the bill.