Court rules for release of all Balyoz convicts after Constitutional Court verdict

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An Istanbul court ruled for the release of all convicts in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot case on June 19, a day after the Constitutional Court ruled that the rights of 230 convicts were violated and they should be retried.

Some 81 convicts applied to the 4th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul’s Anatolia Courthouse on June 19 for a release, but the court eventually released all 230 who had previously filed individual applications to the Constitutional Court.

The latest court verdict was in accordance with the prosecutor’s plea, which demanded the suspension of the execution of sentences and the retrial of the convicts.

The Constitutional Court had stated in particular that the rights of the convicted suspects had been breached regarding the digital data used as evidence throughout the trial, as well as the defendants’ testimonies.

The ruling will effectively result in the retrial of the convicts in order to eliminate the violations, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also suggested earlier on June 19.

The first convicts released after the ruling were Air Force Colonel Davut İsmet Çınkı and four Navy colonels at Maltepe Prison. Mamak Prison in Ankara saw first releases at 6.20 p.m local time. Other convicts were jailed in Silivri and Hasdal prisons in Istanbul, as well as in Sincan Prison in Ankara.

İrem Çiçek, the daughter of one of the top suspects in the trial, retired Col. Dursun Çiçek, said the latest verdict was also a “new beginning.” “We were thinking about starting the legal struggle five years ago. We always hoped that the truth would be revealed in the end. This is the first time that we have faced justice. We searched for glimpses of justice throughout the process but didn’t find any until now. From now on, we want to stand in a new, real court,” she said.

With the latest ruling, no more lawmakers remain behind bars, as the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy and retired general, Engin Alan, who was sentenced to 28 years in prison, has also been released.

Alan vowed punishment for those who prosecuted them during the trials in his first comments after his release. “All the crooked who planned or supported this ignominy will sit in front of the honorable judges of this country until they get the punishment they deserved,” Alan told reporters.

“The Constitutional Court has restored the reputation of this country’s judiciary and gave it back to the people,” he added.

Alan is expected to be sworn in at Parliament next Tuesday, June 24.

The Turkish Armed Forces welcomed the court decision in a written statement published on its official website June 19.

“We sincerely share the happiness of our retired and active duty staff, who have been freed upon the local court’s ‘rights violation’ decision, as well as their families. We hope and wish that the retrial process will result in a just decision,” the statement read.

Most of the convictions handed out by a specially authorized court have previously been upheld in appeal. On Oct. 9, 2013, the Supreme Court of Appeals ordered the retrial of 88 convicted suspects, while approving the convictions of 237 suspects in the case.

Former First Army General Cetin Doğan, former Air Force General Halil İbrahim Fırtına, former Navy Admiral Özden Örnek and other high-ranking retired generals were among the 237 suspects whose convictions in the Balyoz case were upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The ruling also came as the government searched for a legal formula for the retrial of the convicts, after it abolished in March the specially authorized courts that had conducted the coup plot trials.

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