Lawyers revolt over TBB head’s ‘pro-government stance’

Lawyers from the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) have announced they do not recognize members of the organization’s administrative board as its managers and that they do not accept Metin Feyzioglu who has increasingly developed a pro-government stance, Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Monday.

The TBB is an umbrella organization representing more than 60,000 lawyers in 78 Turkish bar associations.

A total of 96 lawyers from 16 different bar associations stated this on Monday. Once an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Feyzioglu has increasingly developed a stance in harmony with him and his AK Party (AKP) government in recent years.

He has been abstaining from criticizing what opponents consider evident violations of the rule of law and a total lack of independence in the judiciary.

The latest move by the lawyers came after a call for an extraordinary general assembly for TBB made by 12 bar associations, which included TBB’s Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir branches was rejected by the umbrella union’s administration.

“The TBB administration board members’ decision by a majority not to hold an extraordinary general assembly while they should have held it due to 12 bar associations’ call for it shows that they have committed ‘misuse of public duty’,” the lawyers said in a joint statement.

According to the union’s by-laws, an extraordinary general assembly must be held if at least 10 bar associations apply for it in writing.

“This decision is shameful for our profession. We call upon all members of TBB not to stay silent about this. … We will not let the Union of Turkish Bar Associations’ administrative board break the law,” the lawyers vowed in the statement.

Erkan Senses, the TBB’s Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK) commission executive board member announced his resignation just a few days before the joint statement, arguing in a tweet that it was no longer possible to work within a commission under the current TBB leadership.

Antalya Bar Association President Polat Balkan previously told Gazete Duvar that Feyzioglu’s leadership, as well as that of the board members, are no longer legitimate, referring to them as “occupiers.”

It was an unprecedented move in the 50-year history of the TBB to reject a call for an extraordinary general assembly made by more than 10 bar associations, Balkan emphasized.

Van Bar Association head Zulkuf Ucar on Monday told the Turkish news website Bianet that TBB administrative board’s decision violates the Turkish Attorneys Act and is “arbitrary.”

“If TBB can make a decision such as this, it means that we have serious problems regarding the law. At the same time, this [decision] shows how to the point our recent objections and the call for the extraordinary general assembly have been,” Ucar argued.

Ankara Bar Association head Erinc Sagkan claimed that Feyzioglu avoids having his latest actions, which have been found to be pro-government by many of the TBB members, to be discussed in the general assembly.

“We have not called on him to resign, we just called on him to put his recent actions and attitude to the vote of the general assembly members to see whether or not they will approve it. The president has been avoiding it, there’s no other explanation for this,” Sagkan explained.

Gurkan Altun, head of the Bursa Bar Association, said the call was made because they thought Feyzioglu has been wearing TBB out.

“Since we are the ones that constitute the union, we also must be the ones to change it. … All lawyers of the TBB know that it cannot be managed this way any longer,” Altun added.

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