MP sees 1,000th day in jail amid detention row
ANKARA / İZMİR
A protester holds jailed Balbay’s poster. DAILY NEWS photoTurkish journalists and opposition deputies led protests yesterday to denounce lengthy detention periods as Mustafa Balbay, a columnist-turned-lawmaker, marked his 1,000th day in prison on charges of helping to plot a coup to overthrow the government.
“Such an incident has never been seen in the history of parliaments in the world. The Turkish Parliament must resolve this issue and put an end to this shameful situation. I wonder when those who are calling for facing up to history will face up to this shame,” said Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy group chair Emine Ülker Tarhan at a protest held outside Parliament.
Balbay, the former Ankara representative of daily Cumhuriyet, was elected to Parliament from prison on the CHP ticket in the June 12 elections. He has been under arrest for 1,000 days on charges of being part of the purported Ergenekon network that allegedly plotted to overthrow the government. The courts have refused to release Balbay and seven other people who were elected from prison while awaiting trial, contradicting past precedents.
Speaking at the demonstration in Ankara, CHP deputy chairman Gökhan Günaydın said elected deputies remained in jail without conviction while suspects in the embezzlement probe into the Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) charity had been released.
“There is no suspicion that the suspects of the Deniz Feneri case may attempt to escape and destroy evidence, but our colleagues are still held in prison on grounds that the evidence has not been collected,” Günaydın said. Balbay still does not know what he is accused of, said Haluk Yalvaç, the spokesman of the Association of Cumhuriyet Readers (CUMOK).
The CHP also held a meeting in the Aegean province of İzmir yesterday to protest the continued detention of Balbay. The demonstrators distributed 1,000 carnations.
“Tomorrow, it is going to be exactly 1,000 days since Balbay was unjustly imprisoned. His crime is yet to be revealed. None of the offenses attributed to him could be proven,” İzmir Provincial Head Tacettin Bayır said yesterday.
Meanwhile, speaking to Cumhuriyet, Mustafa Balbay’s spouse, Gülşah Balbay, also called on politicians to rectify her husband’s situation. “My spouse has completed his 1,000th day in a place that human nature cannot bear. He issued his defense and all the prosecutor’s claims were unproven,” Gülşah Balbay said.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), meanwhile, said it could not meddle with the judiciary even though it, too, was “irked” by the lengthy detention periods. “We are irked by detentions that have become punishment in itself. The courts must proceed speedily,” deputy AKP leader Hüseyin Çelik said.“The detention periods may be re-arranged according to the nature of the crime. The Justice Ministry is working on that.”