Ruling party kills plans to free jailed deputies
DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek’s initiative to hammer out a formula for the release of the members of Parliament currently being held in prison collapsed in acrimony yesterday as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) rejected the opposition’s joint proposal and referred the problem to the courts.
“There cannot be any [legislative] formula for this. The law and Article 14 of the Constitution are loud and clear on the issue,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday, referring to a constitutional provision stipulating that no freedom can be used against the unity of the country.
Opposition parties denounced the AKP stance and questioned whether the ruling party had misled Çiçek into thinking that he could mediate a compromise to secure the release of the eight opposition deputies, who were elected from prison last year while awaiting trial for alleged involvement in coup plots and collaboration with Kurdish militants.
Erdoğan charged that the nomination of candidates from prison was an attempt to “get around the Constitution” and “water down” the parliamentary elections. “For this reason, we do not welcome [the opposition proposal]. But we will respect what the courts rule,” he said.
The AKP formally announced its rejection late Monday, following a meeting of the party’s central administrative board. “The proposed amendment could result in unwanted legal consequences and would be very much open to manipulation. We’ve concluded that it would be much better to let the courts make a decision on the issue,” AKP spokesman Hüseyin Çelik said.
In meetings led by Çiçek, the three opposition parties agreed last month on an amendment to Article 100 of the Criminal Procedures Law, under which lawmakers would be included in the scope of exemptions from pre-trial detention. AKP officials have raised objections to such an amendment on the grounds that it could pave the way to the election to Parliament of commanders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). According to the AKP, the proposal would breach five constitutional articles, which pertain mainly to the prosecution of terrorism-related crimes and the principle of equality. It would also bar Parliament from debating issues related to ongoing trials.
The deputy group chair of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Hasip Kaplan, said the AKP had dealt a blow to Çiçek’s credibility. The speaker should either resign or explain “who pulled this trick on him,” he said. Çiçek flew to Albania yesterday without any comment on the subject.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu skipped the issue in his weekly parliamentary speech, leaving deputy group chair Emine Ülker Tarhan to comment on the issue.
“We understand that Çiçek undertook a useless initiative. We see that the ruling party attempted to lay an ambush on the opposition parties, assuming that they would not be able to agree on a joint proposal,” Tarhan said.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, for his part, stressed that it was now up to the AKP to resolve the deadlock. “If they believe that our proposal has serious drawbacks, then they should provide judges with the means of speeding up the proceedings and find a fundamental solution to resolve the problem,” he said.