Justice Minister says MP Can Atalay’s case outside scope of parliamentary immunity

Turkish Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç has said that TİP lawmaker Can Atalay’s conviction lies outside the scope of parliamentary immunity and the decision to release him or not was in the Court of Cassation’s hands. TİP Chair Erkan Baş reacted against this statement by asking how Atalay was eligible to run as a parliamentarian in the first place if the issue was contentious.

This collage photo shows Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç (L) and TİP MP Can Atalay.

Duvar English

Turkey’s newly appointed Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç on June 7 addressed the ongoing imprisonment of lawmaker Can Atalay by saying that parliamentary immunity does not cover the charges levied against him.

Tunç said that the decision to release Atalay or not will be finalized following the written correspondences between the Parliamentary Speaker’s Office and the Court of Cassation.

“It is a case overseen at the Court of Cassation. A verdict has been given and the case file is still continuing as (Atalay being) a convict. Gezi (Park) Trial is an issue with regards to constitutional order. It is one of the files that lies outside the scope of immunity in the Constitution’s Article 14,” he said.

Under the Constitution's Article 83, 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 over crimes mentioned in Article 14 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."

Atalay's prison sentence, which has not yet been finalized, poses a slight risk that he will not be able to exercise his right to immunity because his sentence might be related to the above-mentioned crimes. 

Atalay was arrested on April 25, 2022 after being sentenced to 18 years in prison in the Gezi Park trial. In the parliamentary elections on May 14, he was elected as a lawmaker from the Workers' Party of Turkey (TİP) and has not yet been released from prison.

TİP Chair Erkan Baş reacted against Justice Minister Tunç’s statement, recalling that Atalay’s case has not been yet finalized and the decision is still pending at the Court of Cassation.

In a tweet, Baş said: “If there is no finalized verdict (against Atalay), who is to decide if (the crime) is within the scope of the Constitution’s (Article 14), and how? If there is a verdict, how was he (Atalay) nominated as a (parliamentary) candidate and chosen?”