World Bulletin / News Desk
Associate Professor Ümit Kocasakal has been re-elected as the new chairman of the İstanbul Bar Association after securing more than 12,000 votes.
A total of 28,884 lawyers voted in the election held on Sunday at the Haliç Congress Center in İstanbul. Kocasakal secured a total of 12,836 votes, or 58.3 percent of the votes cast. Rıza Saka received the second largest number of votes, 4,650, followed by Filiz Kerestecioğlu with 3,495, and the previous head of the association, Muammer Aydın, who received 1,038 votes.
In a speech after it was announced that he was the winner, Kocasakal said that the members of the İstanbul Bar Association clearly demonstrated that it is an organization that cannot be invaded, likely referring to the government. He further said: “I congratulate all the candidates; however, with a record number of votes, the general committee has again chosen me. The result of this election is an affirmation of my services during my two-year term and shows that my fight against injustice during the past two years is supported by the membership.
Today, the members sent a clear message calling for the protection of the fundamental characteristics of the republic: a unitary state, complete independence, and the principles of the Constitution that should not be changed by the government. I believe this is very important for all of Turkey. The İstanbul Bar Association will continue to fight against lawlessness. The members have shown that the İstanbul Bar Association cannot be compromised.”
Kocasakal is known for claims that he has links to some groups in Turkey. There were earlier claims that Kocasakal has links to the People's Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO), an illegal and armed Marxist organization. He is also known to be a strong opponent of the ongoing case against Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal organization accused of working to overthrow the government. He has previously criticized the arrest of many individuals on charges of membership in Ergenekon. Furthermore, Kocasakal frequently targeted the former İstanbul Bar Association chairman, Aydın, over his relatively soft stance against the Ergenekon case.
Other incidents also show that Kocasakal has a growing dislike for anti-coup lawyers and journalists. Kocasakal, who was first elected to the helm of the İstanbul Bar Association in November 2010, frequently sparked controversy for his support of suspects on trial as part of the Sledgehammer coup case.
The Sledgehammer case concerns a suspected coup plot believed to have been devised in 2003 with the aim of unseating the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government through violent acts.