Hundreds of lawyers from across Turkey marched to the country’s Supreme Court of Appeals in response to the refusal of the court’s Third Criminal Chamber to comply with a Constitutional Court (AYM) ruling to release a jailed lawmaker, as well as the filing of criminal complaints against AYM members, in a protest organized by the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) and the Ankara Bar Association on Friday.
The judicial crisis was ignited by the case of Can Atalay, an opposition lawmaker from the Workers Party of Turkey (TİP), who filed a petition with the AYM claiming rights violations due to his continued incarceration despite acquiring parliamentary immunity in the May elections. The AYM ruled in favor of Atalay, but the Supreme Court of Appeals defied this decision, sparking widespread criticism and accusations of a judicial coup.
The “March for the Rule of Law” began at the Sıhhiye Courthouse in Ankara. Lawyers, carrying banners and chanting slogans such as “Uphold the rule of law,” “Implement Constitutional Court decisions” and “Law is not a political tool,” expressed their deep concerns about the deteriorating state of the judiciary in Turkey.
TBB President Erinç Sağkan addressed the crowd, emphasizing the critical state of the judiciary and the need to defend the rule of law. Mustafa Köroğlu, president of the Ankara Bar Association, highlighted the negative impact on the country of the conflict between the Supreme Court of Appeals and the AYM, stressing the importance of eradicating the stain on the law caused by the judiciary’s involvement in politics.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Özgür Özel, supporting the lawyers’ march, issued a statement in front of the AYM emphasizing that the ongoing judicial crisis is exacerbated by the remarks of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan earlier Friday voiced explicit support for the Supreme Court of Appeals’ defiance of the AYM, signaling a willingness to use the judicial crisis to press ahead with plans to limit the power of the top court.
Özel said the situation is being transformed into an attempt to dismantle the constitutional order.
He accused Erdoğan of leading a coup attempt, stating, “Turkey has a strong constitutional tradition, but the AKP is trying to leave the country without a constitution. Until Erdoğan’s statements, this was a judicial crisis, but now it’s clear that we are facing a coup led by Erdoğan against the constitutional order.
“The AKP government lacks the majority to amend the constitution, yet they ignore certain constitutional articles, supported by a president who should be protecting these provisions. Erdoğan, along with the Supreme Court of Appeals, is attempting to nullify a constitutional provision. You don’t have the power to change the constitution, the people didn’t give you that authority. That’s why you are a coup leader.”
The lawyers’ march concluded at the Supreme Court of Appeals building in Ankara, where they left copies of the constitution as a symbolic gesture of protest.
The crisis has drawn attention from various segments of society, including former Turkish President Abdullah Gül and former AYM President Haşim Kılıç, who criticized the top appeals court’s decision. The CHP organized a vigil in parliament to protest the decision, with deputies staying in the plenary chamber overnight in shifts.