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Amnesty says court ruling for release of jailed MP ‘long overdue’

Can Atalay

Prominent human rights organization Amnesty International has welcomed a decision from Turkey’s Constitutional Court concerning the violation of rights of a jailed lawmaker but finds the ruling “long overdue.”

The Constitutional Court ruled on Wednesday that Turkey violated the rights of Can Atalay, who was not released from prison despite gaining parliamentary immunity after winning a seat in the legislature in May.

“Can Atalay should never have been imprisoned so today’s decision is very welcome, despite being long overdue. It also provides a resounding confirmation of what we long knew – that his right to liberty had been violated. Atalay must now be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s research director in Europe, the Balkans and Turkey.

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

The top court announced its ruling in Atalay’s case on Wednesday and said Turkey violated Article 67 of the Turkish Constitution, which concerns one’s right to elect, stand for election and engage in political activities, as well as Article 19, which concerns the right to liberty and security.

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. He was given an 18-year sentence for his alleged role in the protests. His sentence, along with those of four others including prominent businessman Osman Kavala, was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals in September.

“Atalay is a prisoner of conscience (PoC), one of five people similarly held behind bars after being convicted in the absence of any criminal acts, in a grossly unfair, politically motivated Gezi trial. He and the remaining four, Osman Kavala – who the European Court of Human Rights has twice ruled must be released, Ciğdem Mater, Tayfun Kahraman and Mine Özerden should all be released immediately and unconditionally to end the gross injustice they have been subjected to,” Dissanayake said, referring to the other defendants in the Gezi Park trial whose sentences were upheld.

Atalay, who has been in prison since April 25, 2022 on charges of “assisting the overthrow of the government,” is expected to be released from prison after the top court’s decision is sent to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court.

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