Turkey’s top court declines to issue new ruling on jailed MP stripped of seat

Erkan Baş (L), the leader of Workers' Party of Turkey (TIP) and his party's MPs Sera Kadıgil (C) and Ahmet Şık (R) display a portrait of TIP's jailed MP Can Atalay during a swearing-in ceremony at the Turkish parliament in Ankara on June 2, 2023. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has declined to issue a third ruling in the case of a jailed opposition politician who was stripped of his parliamentary status last month, given that its two previous rulings that his rights had been violated were not complied with by the lower courts, Turkish Minute reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The top court, which reviewed an application filed by the lawyers for Can Atalay, who was elected to parliament in the May general election, announced following its meeting on Thursday that it found no need to issue a ruling for their application nor for an additional petition filed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The lawyers and the CHP had asked the court to establish that stripping Atalay of his parliamentary status constituted a violation of his rights and to declare the action “null and void.”

The Constitutional Court made its Thursday ruling by a majority of votes — 10 to 4 — and said it would announce its reasoned decision later.

The top court has already made two rulings on the continued incarceration of Atalay despite his gaining parliamentary immunity and said several of his rights had been violated.

Atalay, who was elected to parliament from the Workers Party of Turkey (TİP), is serving an 18-year sentence that was upheld by the top appeals court last year after his conviction in what’s known as the “Gezi Park trial,” concerning the anti-government protests of 2013.

A judicial crisis erupted when the Supreme Court of Appeals, which upheld the politician’s conviction, refused to rule for his release from prison, defying the top court’s decisions. In a first in the history of Turkey, the appeals court also filed criminal complaints against the members of the Constitutional Court.

Turkish Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç on Friday criticized the Constitutional Court for not simply rejecting the applications of Atalay’s lawyers and the CHP but rather saying it found no need to issue another ruling.

Tunç told reporters in the northern province of Zonguldak that the top court should have rejected their applications on the grounds that it has “no jurisdiction” in the case.

The Gezi Park trial defendants were convicted of attempting to overthrow the Turkish government for their alleged role in the protests, which began over an urban development plan in central İstanbul and spread to other cities in Turkey.

The youth-driven demonstrations morphed into a nationwide protest against perceived corruption by the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) and then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s growing authoritarianism.

Erdoğan’s government violently dispersed the protests and then began to crack down on its leaders.

Opposition politicians slammed what they saw as a flagrant violation of the constitution after Atalay was stripped of his parliamentary status.

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