Erdogan Moves to Overhaul Attorney Groups That Probed His Rule

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is moving toward overhauling Turkey’s attorney organizations, which have often scrapped with his administration over its record on issues including human rights and the separation of powers.

Lawmakers from Erdogan’s Justice & Development Party on Tuesday submitted a bill to parliament that allows for the establishment of multiple bars in major cities such as Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. A 2019 tally showed the three provinces accounted for almost 45% of 127,000 lawyers represented nationwide by bars. In cities with more than 5,000 lawyers, new organizations can form with a minimum of 2,000 members, according to the proposal.

Erdogan Moves to Overhaul Attorney Groups That Probed His Rule

Erdogan on Monday described the current set-up of one legal bar per city as paving the way for “fascistic practices” against members who hold different views. “We’re determined to create a bar structure that’s more democratic and pluralistic,” he said after a cabinet meeting.

But 78 of the existing 80 organizations backed a statement this week accusing the government of attempting to fracture the profession and silence attorneys. Lawyers began a protest in Istanbul on Tuesday.

Last year, bar organizations boycotted a Supreme Court ceremony marking the start of the legal year that was held at the presidential palace, saying the venue itself undermined the separation of powers.

“Defense is the only area left within the judicial system that retains the confidence of society,” T24 website cited main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu as saying June 21. The president “wants to forge a tutelage over bars, attaching them to himself,” he said.

Critics accuse Erdogan, who assumed the wide-ranging powers of an executive presidency in 2018, of overseeing an increasingly authoritarian turn since a failed coup two years earlier. They highlight tighter curbs on media freedoms and the jailing of reporters on charges of abetting the putsch attempt.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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