Ministry denies request to probe bar association over criticism of Turkey’s military ops

Turkey’s Justice Ministry has denied a request from prosecutors to launch an investigation into bar association executives in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır due to their criticism of the country’s military operations in Syria and Iraq, Turkish Minute reported, citing the ANKA news agency.

In January 2023, Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation into the presidents of 12 bar associations across the country, including those of the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin, under the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which concerns the crime of insulting the Turkish nation, state, the republic and the state organs.

The presidents of the 12 bar associations made the joint statement in November 2022 in the wake of the airstrikes conducted by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in northern Syria and Iraq against Kurdish militants whom Turkey accuses of terrorism.

In their statement, the presidents of the bar associations called for an end to Turkey’s military operations in Syria and Iraq and said they “must defend peace under all circumstances.”

While the prosecutor’s office issued a decision of lack of jurisdiction concerning 11 bar associations, it requested permission for an investigation into Diyarbakır Bar Association President Nahit Eren and 10 board members.

Prosecutors are required to obtain permission from the ministry for investigations under Article 301 of the TCK.

According to ANKA, the Justice Ministry denied the request for an investigation into the executives.

Ankara launched the airstrike campaign across Iraq and Syria in late 2022 as part of Operation Claw-Sword following a bombing in İstanbul on November 13 of the same year that killed six people.

Turkey blamed the İstanbul attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been designated as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies. The PKK, which has waged a war against the Turkish state since 1984, denied any role in the bombing.

Turkey at the time intensified airstrikes and artillery fire on PKK and Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) targets in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group linked to the PKK.

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