Turkish Parliament greets Balbay, awaiting other jailed MPs

Turkish Parliament greets Balbay, awaiting other jailed MPs

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Parliament greets Balbay, awaiting other jailed MPs

Main opposition CHP MP Mustafa Balbay hails other deputies after taking the oath at the assembly and officially becoming a member of Parliament. DAILY NEWS photo

Journalist and lawmaker Mustafa Balbay took office yesterday following his release from prison more than two years after being elected to Parliament, while vowing to fight against injustices and unlawfulness.

“Before I shut the door of my prison cell, I looked at it for the last time. I felt responsible and grieved as if I shut the door in the faces of all imprisoned patriots. Now if my colleagues [in prison] accept, I’m a part of them outside. Their freedom will be part of my struggle from now on,” Balbay, an İzmir deputy for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told reporters during a visit to the Ankara office of daily Cumhuriyet, his newspaper.

Balbay took his parliamentary oath in the afternoon and was welcomed by all four parties in the Parliament.

Congratulating Balbay for being able to take his oath two-and-a-half years after being elected, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek voiced his hope for the freedom of all those whose rights had been violated.

Jailed MPs could join Balbay in Parliament

“It’s meaningful that your parliamentary oath coincided with Dec. 10, World Human Rights Day. I hope all the people whose rights were violated due to long imprisonment or for other reasons – whether lawmakers or ordinary citizens – will gain their rights and freedoms,” said Çiçek, who was chairing the Parliament’s General Assembly meeting.

Five jailed lawmakers who were elected from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), meanwhile, were expected to be released as of yesterday. The lawyers of the BDP deputies petitioned a Diyarbakır court for the release of their clients on Dec. 6, with regard to the fact that the Constitutional Court ruling that secured the release of Balbay set a precedent for all jailed lawmakers.

A prosecutor at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court demanded the release of jailed BDP lawmaker İbrahim Ayhan, Doğan news agency reported. The issue of whether the top court’s ruling on Balbay could set a precedent for another jailed lawmaker, the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) Engin Alan, still remains unclear since Alan’s 18-year prison conviction in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plot case was approved by the Supreme Court of Appeals. However, Alan also appealed to the Constitutional Court on Dec. 10, claiming that his right to a fair trial had been violated.

“The top court’s ruling that Balbay’s long imprisonment amounted to a violation of his right to a fair trial is valid for Engin Alan as well. The announcement of a final verdict over the conviction of Alan does not remove the fact that Alan’s right to a fair trial was violated,” Alan’s petition said.

Balbay was welcomed with applause by all CHP lawmakers at the Parliament’s General Assembly. BDP deputy parliamentary group chair Pervin Buldan and BDP lawmaker Sırrı Sakık, as well as MHP lawmakers, congratulated Balbay as he stepped into the General Assembly hall. Balbay received applause from almost all CHP, MHP and BDP lawmakers after taking his oath, but deputy parliamentary group chair Belma Satır and Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan were the only ones applauding Balbay from the ranks of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“I have entered through this door as a journalist many times, but this is the first time I’m entering as a lawmaker,” Balbay told reporters in Parliament prior to taking his oath.

“I’m very excited. I care about this Parliament a lot. It is still above everything no matter what happened … I dream by myself as there are a lot of things we can do together with 550 people. We are taking the first step together,” he said.

The freed lawmaker met with CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu before the General Assembly meeting.