Turkish lawyers threaten boycott of Erdogan’s courts ceremony

The boycott protest would be a first by law associations against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2019
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Turkish lawyers threaten boycott of Erdogan’s courts ceremony

  • The boycott protest would be a first by law associations against Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • EU: Turkey’s judicial independence and the principle of separation of powers have been eroded since 2014

ISTANBUL: Dozens of Turkish bar associations are threatening to boycott President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s planned ceremony to open the judicial year at the presidential palace, saying it would be another violation of the judiciary’s independence.
The boycott protest would be a first by law associations against Erdogan, who has faced increasing criticism from Turkey’s Western allies and rights activists over media freedoms and interference in the courts.
The European Union says Turkey’s judicial independence and the principle of separation of powers have been eroded since 2014 and that judges and prosecutors have come under increasing political pressure.
At least 42 bar associations including those for Istanbul and the capital Ankara said they would not attend the event on September 2 because they believe the ceremony should take place at the Supreme Court building, not the presidential palace.
“These past years have seen judicial independence being seriously undermined... The judiciary is under pressure from the executive,” Mehmet Durakoglu, head of the Istanbul bar association, said on Sunday.
“Under these circumstances, we would expect the ceremony for the opening of the judicial year to take place at a venue that represents the separation of powers, rather than a political location.”
Erdogan’s supporters dismiss criticism he has undermined Turkish democracy, saying his government faces domestic threats especially since a failed 2016 coup against him.
For many of his more conservative backers, he has brought prosperity and defended Turkey’s interests in his decade and a half in power.
The opening ceremony for the new judicial year was first held at the presidential palace in 2016 after the failed coup.
Since then authorities have arrested tens of thousands of people for alleged ties to the coup plotters, in what rights groups say is an unprecedented crackdown.
Erdogan has dismissed criticism over the ceremony, describing the presidential palace on the outskirts of Ankara as “the place of the people.”
“The ceremony taking place in the place of the people would only strengthen judicial independence,” the Turkish leader has said.
But for attorneys, the boycott decision represents a “reaction against violation of freedom of expression, rule of law and judicial independence,” said Dogus Aygun, another lawyer from the Istanbul bar association.
Critics say Turkey’s courts have bowed to pressure, often making rulings that favor authorities since massive purges in the judiciary following a corruption scandal in 2013 and the 2016 coup bid.
Durakoglu said the bar associations would keep up with their campaign for more judicial independence in Turkey even “at the expense of paying a heavy price.”
“We have no fear nor hesitation,” he said. “We see no solution other than keep on fighting.”


Fallen Tunisian autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali dies

Updated 16 sec ago

Fallen Tunisian autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali dies

TUNIS: Tunisia's ousted autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali died on Thursday, days after a free presidential election in his homeland, his family lawyer said.

“Ben Ali just died,” the lawyer, Mounir Ben Salha, told Reuters by phone.

Ben Ali fled Tunisia in January 2011 as his compatriots rose up against his oppressive rule in a revolution that inspired other Arab Spring uprisings abroad and led to a democratic transition at home.

On Sunday, Tunisians voted in an election that featured candidates from across the political spectrum, sending two political outsiders through to a second round vote unthinkable during Ben Ali's own era of power.

However, while they have enjoyed a much smoother march to democracy than citizens of the other Arab states that also rose up in 2011, many of them are economically worse off than they were under Ben Ali.

While almost all the candidates in Sunday's election were vocal champions of the revolution, one of them, Abir Moussi, campaigned as a supporter of Ben Ali's ousted government, receiving 4 percent of the votes.