Turkish Justice Ministry seeks cancelation of dismissed academic’s license to practice law

The Turkish Justice Ministry has filed a complaint against dismissed academic Cenk Yiğiter in an effort to cancel his license to practice law and prevent him from working as an attorney, the Duvar news website reported.

Yiğiter was dismissed from his position at Ankara University’s faculty of law in 2017 for signing the Academics for Peace (BAK) declaration of January 2016. He was charged with “spreading terrorist propaganda for a terrorist organization,” and his conviction is pending at an appeals court.

After his dismissal Yiğiter decided to pursue a career as a lawyer and started an internship in 2018, which is a requirement to qualify as a lawyer in Turkey. However, the ministry filed a lawsuit against Yiğiter arguing that dismissed public servants could not work as lawyers. Yiğiter lost the legal battle and was forced to leave the internship only eight days before it was scheduled to end.

The Constitutional Court ruled last year that dismissed public servants could register with bar associations and work as lawyers. Yiğiter subsequently did another internship and received his law license in April.

The Academics for Peace declaration was titled “We will not be party to this crime” and criticized the Turkish government for its violation of human rights and civil casualties among the predominantly Kurdish population of eastern Turkey. A total of 1,128 academics from various disciplines, mainly in the social sciences, signed the peace declaration, a number that more than doubled with the support of many other academics, artists and public intellectuals from around the world.

The peace declaration frustrated Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, leading to retribution against the academics.

Hundreds of academics who signed the declaration were detained when police raided their homes and offices across Turkey after the declaration was announced on January 11, 2016, while hundreds of them were removed from their jobs.

More than 400 of the signatories working in Turkish universities were dismissed for having signed the declaration, considered to be disseminating terrorist propaganda by the Turkish government.

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