Turkey's CHP starts bid to free jailed MPs

Turkey's CHP starts bid to free jailed MPs

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkeys CHP starts bid to free jailed MPs

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The main opposition leader has called for a broader platform to seek the release of eight lawmakers who remain unconvicted in jail, requesting support from other opposition parties in what he described as a “democracy test.”

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu made the appeal Dec. 2 as his party submitted draft amendments aimed at tightening the conditions of pre-trial detention and lodged an application for the jailed deputies to be brought to Parliament to take their oaths.

“We are taking a step, which, we hope other parties will also support as it is no longer solely a CHP problem. This has become a problem of democracy,” Kılıçdaroğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Draft bill on detention

Earlier in the day, the CHP submitted a draft bill to Parliament amending the Penal Procedure Law. Most prominently, it includes a provision stipulating that those who are elected as members of Parliament while awaiting trial in prison should be unequivocally and immediately released if their candidacy for election has been approved.

The draft, which is part of the CHP’s so-called “urgent democracy package,” stipulates that detentions must be justified by “concrete facts” that the suspect has committed a crime instead of “a strong suspicion.” It also limits the period a suspect can be held in detention without conviction to three years.
In a separate move, the CHP filed an application asking the Parliament Speaker’s Office to contact prosecutors in Istanbul and the southeastern province of Diyarbakır to ensure the eight imprisoned deputies are brought to the General Assembly to take their oaths.

“The detention of the lawmakers is not an obstacle for them to take their oaths,” the application said.

‘Shame for democracy’

Speaking to the Daily News, Kılıçdaroğlu said: “We are undergoing a test of democracy. If we can do it on a larger platform, we would only be happy.” He slammed the government for inaction on the issue and the judiciary for refusing to release the deputies, calling the process “a shame for democracy.”
“You cannot talk about the existence of democracy before solving this problem,” he added. “This shame for democracy is very well observed in the international arena.”

Deputy group chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Hasip Kaplan, lent support to the proposal for the jailed lawmakers to take their oaths and urged Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek to take action.

Kaplan’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) counterpart, Oktay Vural, said they would review the CHP’s draft, but warned such amendments might lead to the release of people involved in terrorism, although MHP lawmaker Engin Alan is among those behind bars.

The others include two deputies from the CHP and five from the BDP.

They are held on charges of involvement in anti-government plots or collaboration with terrorists. CHP deputy Mustafa Balbay, the former Ankara representative for daily Cumhuriyet, became an iconic case in the long-running controversy as he marked his 1,000th day in prison without conviction this week.