Constitutional Court nixes coup case release plans

Constitutional Court nixes coup case release plans

Mesut Hasan Benli ANKARA/Radikal
Constitutional Court nixes coup case release plans

Turkey’s Constitutional Court’s head Haşim Kılıç is seen in this file photo. DHA photo

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has agreed that 10 years of pre-conviction detention is “unconstitutional” but noted that new limits on long detention periods will not be immediately implemented, ruling out early releases for dozens of defendants in a major coup-plot case.

The court confirmed Aug. 2 that a July 4 court ruling abrogating an article of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) permitting up to 10 years of detention for suspects under prosecution in terror charges will not be implemented until one year after the annulment is published in the Official Gazette.

“The immediate implementation of the annulment ruling would violate the public order,” the court argued in its reasoning behind the decision.

The reasoning came just days before the Istanbul 13th Court for Serious Crimes is expected to finalize the Ergenekon coup-plot case and draft its ruling on Aug. 5. There are a total of 275 defendants in the Ergenekon case, 67 of whom are currently in preventive detention.

After the announcement of the July 4 ruling, a number of defendants appealed to the high court for their release.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) appealed to the court for such an annulment. Two CHP deputies have been imprisoned due to the Ergenekon case.

The proportionality principle is the main basis for the court ruling.

“The need for the precaution of arrest in a democratic society is not sufficient, it should also be proportionate. Within this framework, there is need to set a reasonable balance between public benefit – in the form of providing a fair and effective trial – and persons’ right to freedom and security; and [there is a need] not to allow the disproportionate implementation of the precaution of arrest [to result in it becoming] a penalty for the person,” the court said in its reasoning.

The July 4 decision was widely interpreted as a message from the Constitutional Court that Turkish courts should determine a fair period of time based on both the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Convention on Human Rights. The government has one year to prepare a new legal provision in light of ECHR rulings.