Top court denies appeal of former HDP lawmakers

Top court denies appeal of former HDP lawmakers

Top court denies appeal of former HDP lawmakers The Constitutional Court has denied the individual applications of two former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers appealing for the reversal of a parliamentary ruling that removed their status as MPs.

The general assembly of the Constitutional Court unanimously rejected the individual application of Faysal Sarıyıldız and Tuğba Hezer on Sept. 7.

“The court has ruled to deny the appeal to reverse the decision of Parliament’s General Assembly over removing the lawmaker status of HDP Şırnak deputy Faysal Sarıyıldız and HDP Van deputy Tuğba Hezer in accordance with Article 85 of the Constitution,” a written statement from the Constitutional Court read. 

Parliament had voted for the dismissal of Sarıyıldız and Hezer on July 27 for failing to attend five sessions of parliamentary proceedings in October, November and December 2016. 

Sarıyıldız and Hezer left Turkey in the wake of the parliamentary vote to remove their immunities in 2016 and have been abroad ever since. 

The Turkish constitution rules that a deputy can be removed from their status after failing to attend parliamentary sessions without a valid reason or being absent for five sessions. In the event that their MP status has been removed over absence from parliament, the lawmaker can appeal to the Constitutional Court for the decision to be annulled on the grounds that it is contrary to the constitution, the law or the rules of procedure. 

The Constitutional Court is obliged to make the final decision on the appeal within 15 days.

[HH] Sit-in protest in front of the top court

A HDP delegation, meanwhile, continued the sit-in protest it initiated two days ago in front of the Constitutional Court, demanding the start of a belated appeals process for jailed HDP MPs.  

“Eleven lawmakers are in prison now simply because they were dissidents,” HDP spokesperson Osman Baydemir said on Sept. 7 in front of the Constitutional Court.

“This country is governed in such a way that to criticize the government and its leader has become a crime,” Baydemir added.

“We call on the Constitutional Court to say ‘stop’ to this strike against democracy, politics and reconciliation ... The reasonable time [for imprisonment] long ago passed. There has not been any decision for 308 days,” he said, noting that HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş has been in prison waiting for trial for 308 days without a hearing.

After the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voted to partially lift legislative immunities in 2016, hundreds of summaries of proceedings were issued against some 50 HDP lawmakers in the parliament.

The decision led total of 16 HDP lawmakers, including Demirtaş and former co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ, to be jailed.

While three of the lawmakers have been released in the process, four HDP lawmakers, including Hezer and Sarıyıldız, were stripped from their seat in the parliament and the convictions of Yüksekdağ and Nursel Aydoğan were finalized.

Demirtaş sent letter from prison

HDP co-leader Demirtaş has sent a letter via his lawmakers from the Edirne Prison where he is currently held, saying the annex that partially lifted the legislative immunities in 2016 led to judicial controversy over the imprisonment of lawmakers.

“[The 2016 annex] has a serious mistake. The immunities have been lifted retrospectively, but not until the end of the legislative year. That means right now [in 2017], the immunities are still in effect. This is a strange situation since we are arrested, but our legislative immunities are in effect,” he wrote. 

“Since our immunities are still in effect, there cannot be any legal measures taken against us,” Demirtaş added. 

He said a lawmaker cannot be in jail even though there is a conviction on them until the legislative term he or she is elected for is over.

“Our constitution rules for the execution of a conviction to be delayed until after the status of the lawmaker ends. But we have been arrested for 10 months for the speeches given under legislative immunity,” he said.