The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey, Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden, SOC) and John Howell (United Kingdom, EC/DA), have welcomed the return of Enis Berberoğlu, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), to the Turkish parliament.
“The protection of parliamentary immunity – including for opposition parliamentarians – and respect for the rulings of the Constitutional Court are necessary conditions for a well-functioning democracy and a state governed by the rule of law,” they said.
The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court dropped charges against Berberoğlu, a former journalist, last week following a ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court. Berberoğlu’s status as a deputy for the CHP and his parliamentary immunity were restored when the ruling was read out at a session of parliament’s general assembly.
“We hope that this welcome development will inspire the judicial system to fully comply with rulings of the Turkish Constitutional Court in the future, as well as with the binding judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, notably calling for the release of opposition leader Selahattin Demirtaş and philanthropist Osman Kavala,” the co-rapporteurs said.
The Constitutional Court decided unanimously in January that Berberoğlu’s rights to stand for elections and engage in political activities had been violated by lower courts because legal proceedings against him should have been suspended due to his re-election as a member of parliament in the country’s June 2018 elections.
Berberoğlu was sentenced by a lower court to five years, 10 months in prison in 2017 for his alleged role in leaking confidential documents about National Intelligence Organization (MIT) trucks carrying weapons bound for Syria.
He was found guilty of espionage and providing footage of the trucks to the opposition Cumhuriyet daily. Cumhuriyet published the original report about the shipment based on a video that allegedly came from Berberoğlu.
Although Berberoğlu was re-elected to parliament in June 2018, he was not released from jail until September of that year.