Row grows over release of contentious convicts

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The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has expressed skepticism over a formula proposed by Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek for the release of a jailed lawmaker from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on the grounds that it would be unconstitutional.

“The proposal about convicted lawmakers may create a violation of the Constitution. How can a conviction be removed through a legal amendment?” said AKP Deputy Head Mehmet Ali Şahin, quoted by Anadolu Agency on May 8.

Şahin cited Article 84 of the Constitution that stipulates the loss of Parliament membership and said any legal amendment breaching this article would be unconstitutional.

On May 7, Çiçek proposed a legal amendment outlining a delay in the execution of a lawmaker’s criminal sentence until the end of the current Parliament’s mandate, in a bid to release jailed MHP Deputy Engin Alan.

Alan, who was convicted to 28 years in jail in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup case trial and whose sentence was approved by the Supreme Court of Appeals in October, is still behind bars despite other lawmakers whose sentences have not been finalized being previously released after the intervention of the Constitutional Court.

Şahin underlined that the problem could only be resolved through a constitutional amendment, adding
that this was also the view of Atilla Kart, a lawmaker from the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

AKP spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik expressed a similar approach at a press conference held at the party headquarters on the same day. Çelik said the AKP thought any lawmaker whose sentence has already been finalized cannot be released “as a matter of the principle of equality.”

“We have evaluated this proposal as a goodwill effort for the resolution of the problem. We respect and regard it worth discussing. However, the AKP’s line on the issue was settled long ago. There is nothing more to do in cases where a conviction has already been given,” he added.

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