Top court may drop head of bar associations from invitee list of upcoming ceremony
Bars Associations President Metin Feyzioğlu. AA PhotoPresident-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has clearly stated he will not attend the ceremony marking the commencement of the judicial year for 2014-2015 if the head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) delivers a speech there, pressuring Turkey’s top court to review its list of invitees.
“We will share the result with the public after taking the issue to the Council of Presidents,” President Ali Alkan of the Supreme Court of Appeals said on Aug. 15, referring to outgoing Prime Minister Erdoğan’s statement, while speaking to reporters at a reception marking the 13th anniversary of the founding of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The Council of Presidents has already drafted the list of invitees for the Sept. 1 ceremony at a meeting the organization held in July, Alkan underlined while speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
“In this context, in addition to me, the delivery of a speech by the chair of the Union of Bar Associations was also outlined. Accordingly, an invitation has been sent to Bars Associations President Metin Feyzioğlu,” Alkan said.
He also noted there is a time-limit for the Feyzioğlu’s speech because of “undesired developments” that occurred when he delivered a long speech criticizing the Council of State’s head, Zerrin Güngör, at a ceremony marking the Council of State’s 146th anniversary in May.
Erdoğan had stormed out of the ceremony upon Feyzioğlu’s one-hour-long speech where he criticized the government. On May 10, Turkish politics witnessed a first when Erdoğan interrupted Feyzioğlu’s speech, standing up and heckling the TBB head before walking out. He accused the TBB head of distorting reality and of being rude and disrespectful to state protocol.
As early as May 11, during an address at an AKP meeting, Erdoğan had already said he would no longer attend the official ceremonies of the judicial bodies if the head of the bar associations was allowed to deliver a speech, hinting at a change to legal amendments after their heated verbal exchange on May 10.
President instead of the head of bar associations
In response to a question on whether he would attend the ceremony for the commencement of the judicial year, Erdoğan said late Aug. 14 he did not want to face a similar incident as the one in May, adding a speech from the president of the TBB was a custom at these events.
“I won’t attend, if the Supreme Court of Appeals invites the bar president and has him deliver a speech there. The president does not have to listen to the bar president there. From now on, these kinds of things should be reformed,” Erdoğan said.
If a custom is needed, then it must be the president who delivers a speech at these meetings, Erdoğan also argued.
While speaking to Anadolu, Alkan said a new situation emerged after Erdoğan’s remarks on Aug. 14, adding this was the reason why he decided to take this new situation to the Council of Presidents.
‘Pressure on top court’
Hours before Alkan’s statement, Feyzioğlu said Erdoğan’s remarks meant to “impose pressure on the Supreme Court of Appeals and aimed at silencing the organized power of the defense.”
“If this is the first step of a regime of fear and pressure that will be ruled from the presidential office, everybody should know we are not afraid of anything, but God,” Feyzioğlu said on his Twitter account.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also reacted against Erdoğan’s attitude, claiming it reflected “a totalitarian mentality.”
“If you don’t tolerate a speech by the leader of a civil society organization while being president, you cannot be everyone’s president,” CHP Deputy Chair Aytun Çıray said in a written statement released Aug. 15.