Turkey’s main opposition party leader on Tuesday slammed a ruling party bill that would allow the country’s bar associations to split into smaller groups.

Speaking to his Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) parliamentary group, Kemal Kilicdaroglu claimed that the bill aims to split bar associations according to lawyers’ religious and ethnic identities.

“Bars close to the government, bars against the government, bars split by ethnic identity, and bars split into religious identity… They want to form bars like that,” claimed Kilicdaroglu.

He alleged such splits amount to “treason.”

Another opposition party leader echoed the same sentiment.

Speaking to her Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) parliamentary group, co-chair Pervin Buldan claimed the bill aimed to form bar associations controlled by the president.

“They have brought up a suggestion of multiple-bar system. Their aim is to form president-controlled bar associations,” Buldan said.

She added that the government wants to restrict lawyers’ representation and “suppress the voice of opposition”.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on Tuesday submitted a bill to regulate the country’s bar associations.

Under the law, bars that have more than 5,000 members can split into other bars so long as they have at least 2,000 lawyers.

Each bar association in the provinces will be represented by three delegates and a president in the General Assembly of Union of Turkish Bar Associations.

In the first week of September, elections for bar associations would be held and in December for the General Assembly of the Union of Turkish Bar associations.

Elections would be held every two years for the bars and every four years for the union.

Kilicdaroglu called on his party’s lawmakers to stand against the bill, claiming it is meant to “polarize” Turkey.

On June 20, bar leaders marched toward the capital Ankara to protest the proposed changes.

The police that blocked them from entering Ankara said the marchers did not have a permit and were violating social distancing rules.

Later, the marchers were allowed to visit Anitkabir, the mausoleum of the country’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

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