Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called on Tuesday for the suspension of lawyers accused of links to terrorism, following protests over the death of a hunger-striking lawyer last week.
Ebru Timtik died in an Istanbul hospital after a 238-day hunger strike following her conviction last year for membership of a terrorist organization.
She was a member of the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (CHD), a leftist group accused of having close ties to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a Marxist organization.
Following her death, the Istanbul Bar Association hung a picture of Timtik outside its headquarters, in a protest dismissed by Erdogan.
“We should be discussing whether methods such as expulsion from the profession should be introduced for lawyers,” he told judges and prosecutors at a ceremony in Ankara.
Just as thieves should not be called on to defend burglars, “a lawyer who defends terrorists should not be a terrorist”, he said.
The European Union said it was deeply saddened by the death of Timtik, who had been jailed for 13 years. The EU said she was the fourth prisoner to die this year as a result of a hunger strike.
“The tragic outcome of their fight for a fair trial painfully illustrates the urgent need for the Turkish authorities to credibly address the human rights situation in the country,” it said.
Erdogan defended recent changes to the structure of Turkey’s bar associations, many of which have been strongly critical of the president. The changes will dilute their powers by allowing multiple associations, instead of just one, to be formed in each province.
“It is very painful that the bars, which should be institutions of justice, turned into the backyard of terror organizations,” Erdogan said, adding that further measures would be taken to reform the bar associations.