Hopes high for jailed deputy’s release today

Hopes high for jailed deputy’s release today

Hopes high for jailed deputy’s release today

Journalist Mustafa Balbay was detained on March 5, 2009 and elected as CHP’s İzmir deputy in 2011 elections. Cihan photo

Hopes are high for the release of jailed lawmaker Mustafa Balbay following a Constitutional Court’s landmark ruling stating that the lengthy imprisonment of Balbay amounted to a “violation of the law” and “violation of his right to be elected.”

The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court is expected to announce its decision today in response to a petition from Balbay’s lawyers for his release following the top court ruling. Balbay’s lawyers petitioned the Istanbul court on Dec. 6, but the court said the decision would be announced this week.

According to a law governing Constitutional Court operations, the lower court should remove the violation that the higher court had ruled. Since the Constitutional Court ruled that Balbay’s right to be elected was violated, the lower court should release the lawmaker in order for him to exercise his right to hold office, Balbay’s lawyers said in their petition. Balbay, a columnist for daily Cumhuriyet, was detained on March 5, 2009 and elected as an İzmir deputy for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy in the June 2011 elections, however, the Istanbul court refused to release him after elections. Balbay was sentenced to 34 years and eight months in prison on charges related to the Ergenekon coup plot trial on Aug. 5. 

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called for the immediate release of Balbay on Saturday. “The decision of the Constitutional Court is clear. Any delay of the verdict to release Balbay is a legal violation,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said during an internal party meeting in Ankara on Dec. 7. Kılıçdaroğlu recalled that many politicians had voiced opinions in support of the Constitutional Court’s decision. Among these was President Abdullah Gül, who described the decision as “very important,” expressing his satisfaction that the Court was able to rule unanimously on a case that had seen “subjective opinions mixed up with political and ideological perspectives.”

There are currently six jailed lawmakers apart from Balbay; five from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and one from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The BDP deputies are detained under arrest, while the MHP deputy has been convicted. The lawyers of BDP deputies petitioned the Diyarbakır Fifth and Sixth High Criminal Courts for the release of their clients on Dec. 6 with regard to the fact that the Constitutional Court ruling set a precedent for all jailed lawmakers. Eyes will also be on Diyarbakır courts for the decision over jailed lawmakers of the BDP.