MHP leader slams ‘use of secret witnesses’ in cases after Brunson release

MHP leader slams ‘use of secret witnesses’ in cases after Brunson release

ANKARA
MHP leader slams ‘use of secret witnesses’ in cases after Brunson release

The use of secret witnesses in legal cases is the main obstacle to an independent and impartial judiciary, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has said, while also slamming the release of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson who was freed after secret witnesses changed their testimonies even though he was charged with espionage and aiding terrorists.

“The release of the pastor has raised many questions. How can his release be explained, even though his ties with terror organizations are certain and he is a missionary accused of espionage?” Bahçeli told his parliamentary group on Oct. 16.

AKP, MHP leaders meet for alliance in local polls
AKP, MHP leaders meet for alliance in local polls

The evangelical pastor was accused of terror-related charges and espionage, facing up to 35 years in prison. But a court in the western province of İzmir sentenced Brunson to three years and one month in prison for aiding a terrorist organization, while ruling for his release from house arrest pending appeals procedures. He had been in prison since October 2016.

Three secret witnesses, who had earlier testified against Brunson, changed their testimonies in the last hearing, allowing the court to drop the espionage charges against the pastor.

“To what extent is the release of this person in line with an independent and impartial judiciary? His release is the result of the distorted testimonies of three secret witnesses. That shows that secret witnesses can turn the life of an innocent person either into a tragedy or relief. Who are these witnesses that changed their testimonies and tarnished the Turkish justice system?” he said.

Bahçeli said the Turkish legal system should no longer allow witnesses to be determinant in cases.

“Secret witnesses undermine the Turkish Penal Court. It’s unknown where and against whom it will work. Getting rid of the use of secret witnesses is the duty of all of us,” he stressed.

Bahçeli, who is the main ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, also slammed the release of the pastor, saying that Turkey got nothing from the U.S. in return.

Bahçeli asked why Turkey did not ask for Fethullah Gülen, who is believed to have been behind the 2016 coup attempt, in exchange for Brunson.

Turkey has been demanding the U.S. to extradite Gülen, who has been living in Pennsylvania for the last two decades, to Turkey since the coup.

“Didn’t we say they’d get the pastor if they gave us Gülen,” the MHP leader said, referring to Erdoğan’s call to the U.S. last year.

Andrew Brunson, Devlet Bahçeli, MHP