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Turkey’s top court finds rights violations in continued imprisonment of MP

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the country violated the rights of an opposition lawmaker who was not released from prison despite gaining parliamentary immunity after winning a seat in the legislature in May, the T24 news website reported.

Can Atalay, an opposition lawmaker from the Workers Party of Turkey (TİP), filed a petition with Turkey’s Constitutional Court in July claiming that he has been subjected to several rights violations due to his continued incarceration despite his parliamentary immunity.

The top court announced its ruling in Atalay’s case on Wednesday and said Turkey violated Article 67 of the Turkish Constitution, which concerns one’s right to elect, stand for election and engage in political activities, as well as Article 19, which concerns the right to liberty and security.

The court made its ruling by a majority of votes, with nine members voting in favor and four dissenting.

Atalay’s lawyers petitioned the top court after two criminal chambers of the Supreme Court of Appeals rejected applications for his release from prison.

Atalay is one of seven defendants sentenced to 18 years by an İstanbul court in April 2022 in a trial concerning the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013, which erupted over government plans to demolish Gezi Park in Taksim. He was given an 18-year sentence for his alleged role in the protests. His sentence, along with those of four others including prominent businessman Osman Kavala, was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals in September.

Turkish Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç, who responded to questions from reporters ahead of a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) meeting on Wednesday, said the top court’s decision on Atalay had just come out and that the court needs to release its reasoned opinion for him to comment on it.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, Human Rights Watch associate director and Turkey director, on the X social media platform called for Atalay’s immediate release from prison based on the top court’s decision.

Atalay was expected to be released from prison later in the day after the top court’s decision is sent to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court.

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