Erdoğan calls for suspension of lawyers accused of terror links

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan called on Tuesday for the suspension of lawyers accused of terror links, following protests over the hunger-strike death of a lawyer on such charges last week.

Turkey will take action to cut the “bloody link” between lawyers and terrorism, T24 news site cited Erdoğan as telling judges and prosecutors at a ceremony in capital Ankara.

Erdoğan’s remarks follow the death Ebru Timtik in an Istanbul hospital following a 238-day hunger strike for a fair trial, after she was convicted last year for membership in a terrorist organisation.

Timtik was arrested in 2017 over terrorism charges, related to her clients who faced similar charges over membership of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). She was sentenced to 13 years and 6 months in prison in 2019, and had been on a hunger strike since Feb. 3.

The lawyer’s death was met with protests, including by the Istanbul Bar Association, which hung a poster of Timtik on its headquarters, a move that was condemned by the government. Police used pepper spray and rubber bullets on mourners looking to make their way to the Istanbul cemetery Timtik was buried in.

“We should be discussing whether methods such as expulsion from the profession should be introduced for lawyers,” Erdoğan said. “It is unacceptable for lawyers to carelessly stand so close by terrorists.”

Just as thieves should not be called on to defend burglars, “lawyers who defend terrorists can not be terrorists themselves,” he said.

The European Union released a statement on the death of Timtik,saying the case illustrated “the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly address the human rights situation in the country.”

The Turkish president also spoke on the new changes introduced to Turkish bar associations, which opposition parties and the presidents of 80 bar associations say is an attempt to silence lawyers critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

The changes, passed by parliament last month, reduce the powers of bar associations by allowing multiple associations in each province, instead of the existing single one.

“It is very painful that the bars, which should be institutions of justice, turned into the backyard of terrorist organisations,” Erdoğan said, adding that further measures would be taken to reform the bar associations.