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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Court rules against release of two elected MPs

Court rules against release of two elected MPs

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News

Prof. Mehmet Haberal (L) and journalist Mubtafa Balbay will remain in prison although they were elected deputies in the general elections on June 12. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

An Istanbul court has ruled to prevent the release of two prisoners who were elected to Parliament earlier this month, prompting their party, Turkey’s main opposition, to issue harsh criticism of the decision and convene an emergency meeting.

The meeting, convened by the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu immediately after the court decision to prohibit journalist Mustafa Balbay and Professor Mehmet Haberal’s release, was still continuing as the Hürriyet Daily News went to press, but the party’s initial reaction was withering.

“We are a large party; we will not be left helpless. We will take the necessary steps to ensure their release,” deputy leader Gürsel Tekin said.

Balbay and Haberal are in prison on charges of allegedly being part of the Ergenekon plot to overthrow Turkey’s government.

Lawyers for the pair applied for their release in line with a precedent dating back to 2007 when detained Kurdish politician Sebahat Tuncel was freed after she won a parliamentary seat even as her trial continued.

Balbay’s lawyer said they would appeal the decision in a higher court.

The court ruled that there was “no legal ground for their demands for release,” justifying the decision by saying that not all the evidence in the case had been collected, that a strong suspicion of crime continued and that some suspects had not yet provided a full defense.

The deputy parliamentary group leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Bekir Bozdağ, said they had heard the news but had not had time to assess the situation.

CHP deputy leader Engin Altay described the decision as “a disrespect toward citizens” and “legal singularity.”

“This is a scandal. There is such thing as trial without arrest. It is not possible to understand who these judges are serving. No one can be above the citizens….This is a blow to Parliament and to democracy. We will take the necessary legal steps,” he said.

Meanwhile, a decision on the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP’s, newly elected deputy, Engin Alan, who is an incarcerated suspect in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) military plot to topple the AKP was still pending at another Istanbul court when the Daily News went to press Thursday.

“These internationally respected people with no risk of escaping were elected by the people without any legal obstacles, and banning them from Parliament will result in very serious and irreparable damages. The people of Turkey voted, they wanted these people in Parliament. The decision is not right, and must be reviewed, said CHP Zonguldak Deputy Ali İhsan Köktürk.

The decision was taken with majority of votes by the three-member 13th Istanbul High Criminal Court, with the court chief objecting the decision while the other two voting against the release of the two deputies.

Istanbul Bar Association head Ümit Kocasakal said the decision was technically wrong.

“Those who speak of the will of the people are saying this decision regarding deputies elected by the people should be respected. I do not understand the stance of these people who, before, would use any opportunity to lash out at the judiciary. The court has to explain its decision,” he said.

Lawyer Kezban Hatemi, speaking to NTV, said the decision was constitutionally correct. “The laws state that someone who stood trial on the crime of planning a coup cannot be a deputy, even if they are pardoned for their crimes. Therefore, the judiciary process must be accelerated, and the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases must be finalized,” she said.

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