In an unconstitutional move, Turkish Parliament revokes jailed MP Atalay’s deputyship

While leading the General Assembly of the Turkish Parliament, the ruling AKP Group Deputy Chair Bekir Bozdağ has read the top appeals court’s ruling against the Constitutional Court decision, revoking jailed TİP MP Can Atalay’s deputyship. Legal experts and the opposition deemed the move “legally null and void.”

Duvar English

In an unconstitutional move, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Group Chair Bekir Bozdağ on Jan. 30 read the ruling of the Court of Cassation, top appeals court, to revoke the deputyship of jailed Can Atalay, from the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP), while leading the General Assembly of the Turkish Parliament.

Atalay received an 18-year prison sentence for allegedly "attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey" during the 2013 Gezi Park protests. In the 2023 general elections, he was elected as Hatay deputy from the left-wing TİP. 

Despite the Constitutional Court ruled for the release of Atalay twice, the Court of Cassation unconstitutionally refused to comply with the Constitutional Court. 

While Bekir Bozdağ was reading the Court of Cassation’s ruling to revoke Atalay’s deputyship, opposition deputies walked towards the rostrum while shouting “You are violating the Constitution,” and “You cannot read that.” Aysu Bankoğlu from the main opposition CHP threw a constitution booklet at Bozdağ. 

The deputies held banners reading “Freedom for Can Atalay,” and “Can Atalay is the will of the people.”

After reading the ruling among the brawl, Bozdağ ended the session.

Before Bozdağ’s reading, TİP leader Erkan Baş said only Bekir Bozdağ could have read this ruling, not the Parliament Speaker or other deputy speakers. “Mafia keep those they know are criminals with them and make them do the dirtiest jobs. You can only make this read to Bekir Bozdağ, who murdered justice in Turkey.” 

Bozdağ was the Justice Minister between 2013-2017 and 2022-2023.

In a social media post, Atalay said “Even this happened, they did this too. The Constitution is clear. Despite its provisions that left no room for doubt, they stripped the elected Hatay MP from his deputyship.”

Former CHP deputy and constitutional lawyer İbrahim Kaboğlu said the revoke “is legally null and void” as it was against the decision of the Constitutional Court.

Main opposition CHP leader Özgür Özel called on citizens “to react to the coup attempt.” He said “Ignoring the Constitution means ignoring the state. Those who ignore one clause today will ignore the other clause tomorrow. The constitution is the guarantee of our property and lives. Without a constitution, there is no state. Those who ignore the Constitution are a threat to Can Atalay and Hatay today, but to you tomorrow.”

Can Atalay’s lawyer Deniz Özen said they would apply to the Constitutional Court once again.

The opposition Good (İYİ) Party leader Meral Akşener said “Of course, we are not surprised that Mr. Erdoğan chose to escalate the problem between state organs rather than solving it! However, our constitution is the oath of the nation! How will you represent the will of a nation whose oath you violated from now on? On what will you base the legitimacy of the decisions you implement?”

The TİP and CHP protested the move in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district in the evening.

What happened?

The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation, Turkey's top appeals court, on Jan. 3 dismissed the second Constitutional Court (AYM) ruling that found rights violations in TİP MP Can Atalay’s imprisonment.

The AYM first 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 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.

Then, the AYM on Dec. 26 released a statement and underscored that the "Court of Cassation has rendered a decision that is not found in Turkish law, stating non-compliance with the Constitutional Court's decision."

The AYM commented that referral of a case within the jurisdiction of the first-instance court to the Court of Cassation, top appeals court, and the latter’s decision disregarding constitutional provisions “clearly constituted a violation of the constitution.”