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Justice Ministry finds continued imprisonment of MP ‘appropriate’ despite immunity

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Turkey’s Justice Ministry has said in its opinion to the Constitutional Court that the continued imprisonment of an opposition lawmaker is appropriate despite his parliamentary immunity, the T24 news website reported.

Can Atalay, an opposition lawmaker from the Workers Party of Turkey (TİP), filed a petition with Turkey’s Constitutional Court last month claiming that he has been subjected to several rights violations due to his continued incarceration despite his parliamentary immunity.

Atalay’s lawyers petitioned the top court on after two criminal chambers of the Supreme Court of Appeals rejected applications for his release from prison.

The ministry, whose view on the imprisonment of Atalay was sought by the Constitutional Court, said it finds the Supreme Court of Appeals decisions against the lawmaker appropriate and that his incarceration should continue.

The ministry also said it does not agree with the top court’s rulings in the past in favor of the release of individuals from prison after their election to parliament.

In their application Atalay’s lawyers claimed the 36th and 13th articles of the Turkish Constitution, which concern the right to a fair trial and the restriction of fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as the 6th and 17th articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concern the right to a fair trial and a prohibition of the abuse of rights, have been violated in Atalay’s case.

The lawyers also claimed Article 67 of the Turkish Constitution, which concerns one’s right to elect, stand for election and engage in political activities, has been violated.

The lawyers asked the court to take the necessary steps for the elimination of the rights violations suffered by their client and to end his incarceration.

Atalay is a human rights lawyer who was elected to parliament from the southern province of Hatay in the May 14 elections but hasn’t been released from prison despite acquiring parliamentary immunity with his seat in the legislature.

According to the Supreme Court of Appeals, parliamentary immunity does not cover crimes that require a severe punishment and may not be applied, either, when an investigation was launched before the election of the jailed person to parliament. The court based its decision on the 14th and 83rd articles of the Turkish Constitution.

Atalay is one of seven defendants sentenced to 18 years by an İstanbul court in April 2022 in a trial concerning the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013, which erupted over government plans to demolish Gezi Park in Taksim. After an appellate court ruled in December that the April verdict “complied with the law,” the defense appealed the case at Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals.

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