Arınç appeals for release of deputies

Arınç appeals for release of deputies

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Arınç appeals for release of deputies

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç criticizes the judiciary system and calls for amendments to the much-criticized anti-terror law. AA photo

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has issued a strongly worded appeal for the release of eight opposition lawmakers who were elected to Parliament from jail, denouncing their continuing imprisonment as “disrespectful” of the people’s will.

“The judiciary must take into account the will of the people and release those who represent the people. This is not an order [but] the judiciary is not in a position to rule on whether voters have made the right choice,” Arınç said at Parliament’s Planning and Budget Commission late on Nov. 2.

The continued incarceration of the lawmakers “is disrespectful to the will of the people,” he said.

“If their parties believe they did the right thing by fielding them as candidates and if the people later elected them, we have to shut up and say nothing,” he said. “Their place is in Parliament. They should come and assume their duties.”

The jailed lawmakers, elected from prison in the June 12 elections, include two members of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), one from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and five from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). They are held on charges of involvement in purported plots to overthrow the government or for alleged collaboration with Kurdish militants.

Support for anti-terror amendments

In further remarks at the same gathering, Arınç called for amendments to the much-criticized anti-terror law, particularly in provisions penalizing the dissemination of propaganda of terrorist groups, which have landed political activists and journalists in jail.

“The penalties we give to propaganda offenses have failed to discourage the people in question and to bear fruit on the ground. They have not helped us reduce terrorist attacks either,” he said. “Therefore, we have to review the propaganda offenses. I think we have to decriminalize some and reduce the sentences for others.”

The deputy premier also decried lengthy detention periods, adding that the incarceration of suspects during the course of trials must be considered an exceptional measure. “The justice system is not a mechanism for vengeance,” he said.

Arınç made the headlines last week when he welcomed the release of suspects of the Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) charity embezzlement probe and said courts handling other high-profile investigations should follow suit in releasing unconvicted inmates pending trial.