Lawyers on the Barricades: The Politics of Exceptional Law in Turkey, 1930-1980
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Why would a country's top law professors support a military coup d'état and political show trials? Conversely, how could lawyers succeed in bringing military trials of civilians to a halt, rendering them all but useless as political tools? This dissertation addresses how Turkish lawyers engaged with exceptional law from the early 1930s until 1980, when the Army repeatedly took the reins of government and sought to reshape the political landscape through military trials. Most scholars have seen such trials as political instruments of the Army. I demonstrate that they depended to a great extent on the cooperation of lawyers, and were therefore far less pliable political tools than many have assumed. While the 1960 military coup and the ensuing show trial of the deposed government enjoyed wide support among lawyers, the military trials of the 1970s met with massive resistance from many of the same lawyers, who often subverted the Army's intentions to the extent that the trials ended in acquittal. I argue that Turkish lawyers were able to obstruct the trials of the 1970s because the state ideal that the Army claimed to be defending was one where lawyers' share in public authority was equal to that of the Army itself. I conceptualize this authority as a form of professional "jurisdiction" over the right to define the boundaries and forms of legal procedure. Paradoxically, the jurisdiction that enabled lawyers to resist legal authoritarianism in the 1970s had been shaped during the 1930s by jurists whose primary goal was not to limit it, but to ensure that they would have a place in its exercise. Although by the 1970s many jurists sharply disagreed with the Army over the ideological direction the country should be taking, the Army had to engage with jurists on their own terms in order to plausibly maintain that it was defending the state against political subversion. Only by gradually undermining the autonomy and symbolic authority of non-state lawyers was the Army able to use military courts as a brutal, if awkward and blunt, tool for political purposes after the 1980 coup d'état.