Turkey amends laws to allow multiple lawyer associations

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s parliament has passed controversial legislation amending laws governing attorneys and bar associations, despite protests from critics who say the move could limit the independence of lawyers and reduce the professional associations’ clout.

The new law, submitted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party, passed early Saturday, after days of heated debate and following scuffles between police and lawyers protesting the legislation.

The government has said the law would create a “more democratic and pluralistic” system. But detractors say the measure aims to lessen the influence of major bar associations that have been outspoken critics of Erdogan’s government and have documented rights violations.

The change comes amid widespread criticism of the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in Turkey.

The law allows multiple bar associations to be formed in a province. It also scraps proportional representation of bars in the national umbrella organization, in effect decreasing the number of delegates from Turkey’s major cities, which could reduce their funding.

The law would affect the three major cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, has vowed to seek its cancelation by Turkey’s Constitutional Court.