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Former bar association head named Turkey’s ambassador to self-declared Turkish Cypriot state

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Turkey has appointed Metin Feyzioğlu, the eighth chairman of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), as its ambassador to the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), which is not officially recognized by any country other than Turkey.

Turkish troops invaded the eastern Mediterranean island in 1974 after a Greek-engineered coup seeking to unite it with Greece, and tens of thousands of soldiers from mainland Turkey are still posted in its northern third.

The KKTC was unilaterally declared in 1983 and is recognized only by Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has appointed a host of new ambassadors and permanent representatives to Turkey’s missions abroad, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported, citing diplomatic sources.

Feyzioğlu, who is among the new ambassadors appointed by Çavuşoğlu, has frequently been criticized for being too close to the government.

Previously a critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Feyzioğlu’s relations with Turkey’s strongman improved over time during his tenure as TBB chair between 2013 and 2021.

Many lawyers criticized what they saw as Feyzioğlu’s pro-government stance.

He came under fire for failing to speak out for lawyers during an unprecedented crackdown on the profession after a failed coup in 2016.

He was also criticized for failing to support bar association chairpersons and lawyers during their protests against a bill that critics say was aimed at silencing the bar associations, one of the few remaining institutions that still oppose the government’s stance on the rule of law and human rights.

In June 2020 six members of the TBB resigned to protest Feyzioğlu’s attitude toward their colleagues.

His appointment as ambassador to the KKTC, at a time of rising tension in the island since the KKTC government gave an ultimatum to UN peacekeepers on the island, was regarded by critics as both a reward for his pro-government stance and an assignment to instruct the pro-Ankara government of Turkish Cypriots on how to design the judiciary there in the likeness of Turkey.

After the 2016 coup attempt, Erdoğan’s government dismissed 4,156 judges and prosecutors, nearly a third of the total number at the time, which was followed by the mass recruitment of replacements.

Critics accuse Erdoğan of recruiting pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawyers as judges and prosecutors. On top of that, the mass disbarment of members of the judiciary is believed by many to have had a chilling effect on the entire justice system, intimidating the remaining judges and prosecutors into doing the government’s bidding by launching politically motivated investigations into critics.

“If the originator of the judicial system established by Erdoğan goes to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, it means that the independent judiciary that tries to resist there will be flattened. One should also brace for turmoil in Cyprus and its impact on [Turkey’s] domestic politics,” tweeted Cevheri Güven, a Turkish journalist in exile.

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