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Lower court refuses to release opposition MP from prison despite top court ruling

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A high criminal court in İstanbul has failed to comply with a recent ruling from Turkey’s Constitutional Court, which found rights violations in the continued incarceration of an opposition lawmaker, despite calls for his release, Deutsche Welle Turkish edition reported.

The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on Monday evening forwarded the top court’s decision on Can Atalay, who was not released from prison despite gaining parliamentary immunity after winning a seat in the legislature in May, to the Supreme Court of Appeals, which upheld Atalay’s conviction.

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 Oct. 25 and said Turkey violated Article 67 of the Turkish Constitution, which concerns the right to elect, stand for election and engage in political activities, as well as Article 19, involving the right to liberty and security. Atalay will be paid TL 50,000 in non-pecuniary damages in line with the court’s ruling.

The top court subsequently sent a copy of its decision on Atalay to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court to eliminate the rights violations Atalay was subjected to, which would mean his release from prison.

However, the court, instead of ruling for Atalay’s release, sent the top court’s decision to the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, claiming that the rights violations suffered by Atalay stem from the ruling of the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, hence it is not within its jurisdiction to rule for his release.

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.

He has been in prison since April 25, 2022 on charges of “assisting in the overthrow of the government.”

The court’s move has come despite a call from Chief Justice Zühtü Arslan to the court earlier in the day to comply with the top court’s decisions.

“In democratic countries, there is no room for a cacophony of interpretations because when it occurs, we face the problem of applying different laws to different people,” Arslan said in a speech on Monday.

Meanwhile, Atalay made a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, through his lawyers and called on Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) to launch an investigation into the judges who refused to comply with the top court’s decision on him.


Turkey, where the judiciary is accused of being under the control of the government, was ranked 117th among 142 countries in the rule of law index published by the World Justice Project (WJP) last week, dropping one rank in comparison to last year.

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