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Turkey’s top court rejects main opposition’s appeal of controversial immunity decree

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has unanimously rejected a petition submitted by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to nullify a controversial government decree that grants immunity to civilians in terrorism and coup cases.

The decree was issued by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government during a two-year state of emergency that was declared in Turkey on July 20, 2016, less than a week after a coup attempt that claimed the lives of more than 200 people.

The petition submitted to the top court by CHP Deputy Chairman Muharrem Erkek in March 2018 demanded the annulment of controversial Article 121 of government decree No. 696, released in December 2017.

The article said regardless of an official title or duties or the lack thereof, people who played a role in the suppression of the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and subsequent events and terrorist activities would be exempt from criminal liability.

“Every citizen who exercised his right to resistance against the coup attempt is innocent, and this is a natural right. However, we unfortunately saw during the coup attempt that innocent soldiers who had nothing to do with the coup and were even unarmed were lynched that night. Investigating these actions is a requirement of a state of law,” Erkek previously told reporters in front of the top court.

“This article, for the annulment of which we applied to the Constitutional Court, includes very ambiguous wording that could lead to serious problems in the future,” the lawmaker also warned.

The controversial article was also slammed by critics who argued that it paved the way for armed civilian gangs in Turkey.

One of those critics was Turkey’s former President Abdullah Gül, who tweeted: “The ambiguity that does not comply with legal parlance in the text of state of emergency decree No. 696, which I think was released to protect the hero citizens who took to the streets to resist a traitorous coup attempt on July 15, is worrisome in terms of a state of law.”

“I hope to see its revision in order to avoid giving an opportunity to events and developments that could sadden us all,” Gül added.

Lawyers from the Union of Turkish Bar Associations also criticized the emergency decree for granting impunity to perpetrators of political violence, arguing that it did not make clear what sort of actions could be seen as furthering the aims of the coup. The decree covers only the night of the failed military takeover itself, a spokesman for the AKP government said in response, despite the date not being specified in the text.

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