Istanbul branch of the Turkish main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Nov. 13 started a sit-in protest in front of the Çağlayan Courthouse. The “Constitution Watch” was organized against the recent judicial crisis incited by the Court of Cassation’s refusal to comply with the Constitutional Court’s (AYM) decision to release imprisoned Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) deputy Can Atalay.
CHP Istanbul chair Özgür Çelik invited all Istanbul residents to join their protest on his social media. He said, “We are in front of the Istanbul Courthouse to say stop to the judicial coup attempt.”
İstanbul Adliyesi önünde anayasal düzene karşı kalkışmaya dur demek için buradayız. İstanbullulara, hukuku, Anayasayı savunanlara sesleniyorum:— Özgür Çelik (@ozgurcelikchp) November 13, 2023
Bugün itibarıyla burada günlerce sürecek bir oturma eylemi başlattık. Yarın da buradayız, ertesi gün de burada olacağız. Tüm İstanbul'u… pic.twitter.com/JsjKX3eMNi
The sit-in will continue indefinitely, starting at 2 p.m. every day in front of the courthouse.
Çelik also addressed imprisoned Atalay in his speech and said, “You are not alone. We are right by you, just like we were side by side during the Gezi Protests.”
“Not only your constituents, but millions who defend the rule of law and the Constitution are right behind you,” Çelik added.
Çelik also touched upon the “countless scandals about the Turkish judiciary,” which included the recent arrest of journalist Tolga Şardan for reporting on the judicial corruption note prepared by the Turkish National Intelligence Service (MİT) and a prosecutor’s letter exposing malpractices in the judiciary.
Çelik criticized the news media for presenting the issue as a “judicial crisis between two high courts,” and said, “This is a coup attempt that goes as far as renouncing the Turkish Constitution.”
What had happened?
Can Atalay was elected as a Hatay deputy for TİP in the May 14 general elections. However, all lower courts rejected his release from prison. His lawyers applied to AYM as the last domestic judicial authority to apply individually.
Atalay was among the seven defendants who were sentenced to 18 years in prison in the Gezi Park trial for “assisting to the attempted abolishment of the government."
The AYM on Oct. 25 ruled by a majority of votes that there was a violation of rights in the case of Atalay in terms of "the right to vote and be elected and the right to personal security and liberty."
The top Turkish appeals court, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation, on Nov. 8 refused to comply with the AYM ruling. The court also filed a criminal complaint against AYM justices who voted for Atalay’s release, claiming they violated the constitution and exceeded their authority.