Turkish deputy PM hints at release of jailed MPs

Turkish deputy PM hints at release of jailed MPs

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish deputy PM hints at release of jailed MPs

Republican People’s Party deputy Mehmet Haberal is under arrest for three years pending trial in the ongoing Ergenekon probe. Hürriyet photo

The importance of judicial discretion as a way resolving the debate surrounding the issue of jailed lawmakers in Turkey has been stressed by a senior member of the government. 

Currently eight deputies are behind bars, all of whom are from opposition parties. Five hail from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), two are from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and one is from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Since their election to the Parliament in last year’s June elections the issue has become quite controversial and prompted a strong reaction from the international community. Judges should resort to arrest as only an exceptional measure in ongoing trials, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said yesterday as he highlighted the importance of a legal arrangement that extends the scope of judicial control measures as part of a recently adopted judicial reform package. “However, courts are continuing to rule for arrests on a lot of issues during ongoing trials,” Bozdağ told reporters during a meeting in Ankara. He recalled that according to the reform package, judges will be able to implement judicial control without a maximum limit rather than detention. Previously this was only applicable for those facing charges punishable with up to three years in jail.

Reaction from CHP, MHP

“This is an issue which is entirely about judicial discretion. We have provided courts with a new opportunity which they can use instead of arrest for trial without arrest. From now on, judges and courts will consider this [opportunity],” Bozdağ said.

The imprisoned deputies have been charged by recently-abolished specially authorized courts on attempted coup or terrorism related charges; including the Ergenekon coup-plot probe and the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) trials.

Bozdağ’s arguments have failed to persuade the MHP’s Oktay Vural, who said arrest decisions were already an issue of judicial discretion and that judges already had the tools for ruling on trials without arrest if they preferred to do so. Yesterday CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu announced that his party was conducting an assessment to decide whether to take the reform package to the Constitutional Court over concerns that it violated the Constitution. Bozdağ said he believed the reform package was not violating the Constitution.

Meanwhile, CHP Tunceli deputy Kamer Genç said he did not even know the reason for the arrest of the deputies, who have now been behind bars for three years. “They must be judged without arrest, let them perform their duties in Parliament. Then whatever decision the court makes, it will be OK,” he said.

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