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Turkey allows top lawyers to march, ending standoff

June 23, 2020 GMT
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Lawyers wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus, as one holds a placard that reads "Don't touch the Defence!" during a protest, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, June 22, 2020. Turkish authorities have made the wearing of masks mandatory in three major cities to curb the spread of COVID-19 following an uptick in confirmed cases since the reopening of many businesses. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
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Lawyers wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus, as one holds a placard that reads "Don't touch the Defence!" during a protest, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, June 22, 2020. Turkish authorities have made the wearing of masks mandatory in three major cities to curb the spread of COVID-19 following an uptick in confirmed cases since the reopening of many businesses. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish authorities on Tuesday allowed a group of top lawyers to continue a symbolic march into the capital of Ankara, ending a more than 24-hour standoff between the lawyers and police.

The heads of some 60 regional bar associations in Turkey embarked on a march to Ankara wearing professional robes to protest the government’s plans to amend laws regulating lawyers and bar associations, including the way the associations elect leaders.

The lawyers say the changes are aimed at reducing the clout of the bar associations, many of which are outspoken critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

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Police on Monday blocked the group on a highway at the entrance of Ankara, saying the march was unauthorized and in breach of measures in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Scuffles broke out between police and the lawyers, who later staged a sit-in that lasted through the night and heavy rainfall.

Police on Tuesday lifted barricades to allow the lawyers to walk some 300 meters (yards) into the city. The group was later let onto buses that took take them to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum, where they paid respects to the Turkish Republic’s founder.

Turkish authorities frequently ban protests on security or other grounds, and police are called in to break up demonstrations even though the country’s Constitution lists freedom of assembly as a basic right.

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