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A bill is cur­rent­ly being pre­sent­ed in Turkey that would allow the cre­ation of sev­er­al legal bars in towns hav­ing more than 5 000 reg­is­tered lawyers.

Thus antic­i­pat­ing the cre­ation of sev­er­al bars in a giv­en juris­dic­tion, the bill on amend­ments to the law on the sta­tus of lawyers and some oth­er laws, was sub­mit­ted to the Pres­i­dent of the Par­lia­ment on the morn­ing of June 30th. The rul­ing AKP Par­ty is attempt­ing to have the text adopt­ed as quick­ly as pos­si­ble pri­or to the clos­ing down for par­lia­men­tary hol­i­days. This would mean the new sys­tem would be effec­tive for the next elec­tion of Bar pres­i­dents in Octo­ber 2020.

Accord­ing to this bill on “the plu­ral­i­ty of Bars”, pre­pared joint­ly by deputies of the AKP (Par­ty of Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment) and the MHP (Nation­al­ist Move­ment Par­ty), lawyers would be free to reg­is­ter with the Bar of their choice, if there were sev­er­al in the same town. The bill pro­vides for a Bar being cre­at­ed for a min­i­mum of 2 000 lawyers, should the town have more then 5 000 lawyers.

Accord­ing to the fig­ures from the Union of Turk­ish Bars (TBB), some 17 598 lawyers are reg­is­tered with the Ankara Bar, 46 052 lawyers are reg­is­tered with the Bar in Istan­bul and 9 612 lawyers are reg­is­tered with the Bar in Izmir. The coun­try has a total of 127 691 reg­is­tered lawyers. The bill ‘pro­vid­ing for the split­ting of Bars” should affect those three Bars count­ing more than 5 000 lawyers.

Accord­ing to the lawyers, the gov­ern­men­t’s aim is to divide the lawyers and, most impor­tant­ly, to end the oppo­si­tion to the reforms shown by the most impor­tant Bars for sev­er­al years. They have denounced the con­trol over the judi­cia­ry sys­tem, the suc­ces­sive purges or peri­od­ic revo­ca­tions, and the nom­i­na­tions of judges and pros­e­cu­tors allied to the rul­ing par­ty. The inde­pen­dence of the judi­cia­ry was already of a dubi­ous nature so that the cre­ation of sev­er­al Bars under the judi­cia­ry con­trol of the AKP is unthink­able.

June 30th 2020, on the very day the bill was sub­mit­ted to par­lia­ment, hun­dreds of lawyers at the call of the Istan­bul Bar assem­bled in front of the Çağlayan Jus­tice Palace in Istan­bul in protest against this bill which would “divide the Bars”.

Lawyers else­where also attempt­ed to join the move­ment and marched in protest in the Mediter­ranean province of Adana in Turkey. The police inter­vened, unrest ensued, and the police used tear gas on the crowd.

At the demon­stra­tion in front of the Istan­bul tri­bunal on June 30th, hun­dreds of lawyers chant­ed the slo­gan “The defense is not mute, it will not be silenced” and the pres­i­dent of the Istan­bul Bar Mehmet Durakoğlu addressed the crowd: “They say we are get­ting involved in pol­i­tics. Can you show me in which coun­try it is a crime to be involved in pol­i­tics? They do not want lawyers to talk about pol­i­tics. We will talk about it until we die. We must demand human rights. It is our duty to pro­tect the Rule of Law. Here, I am address­ing myself to Ankara: the Bars can­not be silent. Ankara must know this. We do not obey, we do not bow down.”

Durakoğlu also referred to the con­sti­tu­tion­al ref­er­en­dum in 2010 and to Preach­er Gülen’s Broth­er­hood, for­mer friend and now ene­my of Erdoğan, and redes­ig­nat­ed since their con­flict as “the ter­ror­ist Fehul­lahist orga­ni­za­tion (FETÖ), which is con­sid­ered respon­si­ble for the failed attempt­ed coup of July 15 2016. “Dur­ing the ref­er­en­dum in 2010, we tried to warn you: “Don’t do that, you are hand­ing over the judi­cial pow­er to FETÖ. We were told: “You must not say FETÖ, you must say Mr. Hod­ja. This is also a FETÖ project! Bear that in mind. It is a project that was planned for in the 2010 ref­er­en­dum.”

“We will always respect the will of the Great Nation­al Assem­bly of Turkey (TBMM) but we are also speak­ing to those who are attempt­ing to use leg­isla­tive pow­er as a weapon and explain­ing this will turn against them as does a boomerang. We are remind­ing them of this. It is our demo­c­ra­t­ic right to do so. We will use this right to the end. We will demon­strate that this bill is con­trary to the norms of uni­ver­sal law because we are lawyers.“

78 bars pub­lished a joint dec­la­ra­tion in the press: “Under the guise of reform, it con­sists of a dis­man­tling of the bars as a way to dis­qual­i­fy and muz­zle them, it is in truth a threat to muz­zle cit­i­zens, leav­ing them help­less when their lib­er­ties and fun­da­men­tal rights are vio­lat­ed. This dis­man­tling will cre­ate groups of jurists with weak voic­es who will sub­mit to pol­i­tics or oth­er alliances instead of pur­su­ing inde­pen­dent defens­es, lawyers who will wear stick­ers on their gowns.“

Ongo­ing protests under the name of “Big Defense Assem­bly” attract­ing oth­er bars, the Ankara Gov­er­nor’s office has imposed a pro­hi­bi­tion on assem­blies and demon­stra­tions for 15 days. In the dec­la­ra­tion about this pro­hi­bi­tion, the gov­er­nor referred to a recent rise in the new cas­es of coro­n­avirus…“Con­sid­er­ing this could lead to a speed­i­er prop­a­ga­tion of the ill­ness if peo­ple assem­ble in large groups” and under­lin­ing that “those who do not respect this deci­sion will face sanc­tions accord­ing to bill n° 1593 on pub­lic health.” The Health Min­is­ter, Fahret­tin Koca, also expressed his sup­port for the pro­hi­bi­tion and the motives invoked for it.


A large demon­stra­tion took place in Ankara on July 3rd despite the pro­hi­bi­tion and despite the police bar­ring the entrance of lawyers into the cap­i­tal, with orders to disperse…Banners car­ried by thou­sands of jurists read “Defense can­not be reduced to silence”, “We defend the defense”, “The defense on the march”, “Don’t touch my bar”. The lawyers chant­ed “The defense is not mute, it will not be silenced” and “We do not stay silent, we do not fear, we do not obey”, “shoul­der to shoul­der against fas­cism” as well as “Feyzioğlu res­ig­na­tion”.

Sup­port was also expressed for the cas­es of Ebru Timtik and Aytaç Ünsal, two impris­oned lawyers on hunger strike “for their right to an equi­table tri­al.“

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Diyarbakır Bar joined the demon­stra­tion. They chant­ed the name of Tahir Elçi, Diyarbakır Bar pres­i­dent assas­si­nat­ed on Novem­ber 28 2015 and chant­ed “Long live the broth­er­hood of peo­ples.“

In his speech, the pres­i­dent of the Ankara Bar, Erinç Sağkan expressed their deter­mi­na­tion: “We will nev­er bow to the blows of a coer­cive regime.“

Under the rule of the AKP, injus­tice in Turkey has already replaced the pos­si­bil­i­ty of see­ing a “polit­i­cal tri­al” car­ried out equi­tably, divid­ing what is left of a mean­ing­ful defense is an addi­tion­al step.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.