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İstanbul bar files complaint against judge who refused to release jailed MP

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The İstanbul Bar Association has filed a complaint against the judge of a high criminal court who refused to release a jailed opposition lawmaker from prison despite a ruling from the Constitutional Court, the Anka news agency reported.

The lawyers from the bar filed their complaint at the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) against Mesut Özdemir, the presiding judge of the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, İstanbul Bar Association president Filiz Saraç announced in a statement in front of the İstanbul Courthouse on Thursday.

The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court earlier this week refused to comply with a recent ruling from the top court which found rights violations in the continued incarceration of Can Atalay, a lawmaker from the Workers Party of Turkey (TİP) and human rights lawyer who was elected to parliament in May but was not released from prison despite acquiring parliamentary immunity.

The court forwarded the top court’s decision on Atalay to the Supreme Court of Appeals, which had upheld Atalay’s conviction.

In a press statement Saraç said it is impossible to talk about the rule of law and democracy in a country where the rulings of the Constitutional Court and those from the European Court of Human Rights are disregarded.

She said as long as the rulings of the Constitutional Court are published in the Official Gazette, judicial authorities are expected to take the necessary action.

Atalay is a member of the İstanbul Bar Association.

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.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç told the state-run Anadolu news agency on Wednesday that the decision to be made by the Supreme Court of Appeals based on the Constitutional Court decision about Atalay should be awaited and respected.

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.”

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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