Turkey's Constitutional Court finds rights violation in MP Atalay's ongoing imprisonment

Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled that the "right to vote and be elected" and the "right to personal liberty and security" of imprisoned TİP MP Can Atalay have been violated. His lawyer anticipated his release, while Justice Minister Tunç stated, "We need to review the reasoned judgment."

TİP MPs carry the photograph of Can Atalay in a parliamentary session.

Duvar English

Turkey's Constitutional Court (AYM) on Oct. 25 ruled by a majority of votes that there was a violation of rights in the case of imprisoned Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) lawmaker Can Atalay in terms of "the right to vote and be elected and the right to personal security and liberty."

Atalay was elected as a Hatay deputy in the May 14 general elections yet, all the lower courts rejected his release from the prison on the grounds that parliamentary immunity does not cover the crime for which he was convicted. His lawyers applied to the AYM as the last domestic judicial authority.

Atalay was among the seven defendants who were sentenced to 18 years in prison in the Gezi Park trial. He was convicted for “assisting to the attempted abolishment of the government." 

Commenting on the Constitutional Court’s verdict, Atalay's lawyer Akçay Taşçı said, "With this verdict, Atalay should be released immediately, take his oath of office, and start to be the representative of Hatay people. We invite all judicial authorities to fulfill the requirements of this decision and not to cause another legal travesty."

Yalçın Deniz Özen, one of Atalay's lawyers, stated that the decisions underscored the continued imprisonment and prosecution of Atalay after he was elected as an MP was a violation of his rights. “Atalay should be released on the same day,” according to Özen.

Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç answered the question from the journalist regarding the decision and stated, "We need to assess the reasoned decision before making any statements. If the Constitutional Court has determined a violation of rights, we will act accordingly once we have reviewed the reasoning."

On the other hand, Atalay’s party TİP on Oct. 25 continued the “freedom march” that they started for the release of Atalay on the 25th day. 

Party spokesperson Sera Kadıgil stated "If Justice Minister Tunç had the capacity to understand the reasoned judgments he read, he should have read the ones given before and not made nonsensical comments. If he tries to keep an MP, who has been held captive for months, imprisoned for four more days, not only he, but also other officials commit a crime of duty."

Kadıgil referred to the previous case of former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu who was held in prison for five days despite the AYM’s decision. 

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also shared a message on X, "The top court’s decision is of vital importance for the remaining shreds of democracy and judicial independence in our country. The court of first instance should immediately fulfill the requirements of the decision, as the law dictates, and our country should get rid of this shame."

Under the Constitution's 83rd Article, there is only one obstacle for a person elected as an MP to gain legislative immunity. The right to immunity cannot be used if the lawmaker has been convicted of crimes mentioned in the 14th Article which have the aim "to violate the indivisible integrity of the State with its territory and nation, and to endanger the existence of the democratic and secular order of the Republic based on human rights."