Release of deputies now a possibility, says parliament speaker

Release of deputies now a possibility, says parliament speaker

Cemil Çiçek (C) offered a recap on Thursday of the work Parliament completed during its 24th term. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

July 05, 2012, Thursday/ 17:50:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

The release of deputies who are currently in prison is a possibility, thanks to a newly approved reform package, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek has said.

Courts can use modern surveillance systems according to the newly passed judicial reform package, according to Çiçek, who on Thursday offered a recap of the work Parliament completed in its 24th term. He recalled that the legislative year started with the so-called “oath crisis,” when some opposition parties refused to join in the swearing-in ceremony for deputies because some of their deputies were in prison, which they claimed was against the law. “The oath crisis was resolved, but the situation of the deputies in prison did affect the entire legislative process. I would like to thank all our deputies for their selfless work in such a difficult period.”

The parliament speaker also noted that a recently adopted judicial reform package enabled the use of modern devices facilitating the monitoring of people under arrest, such as electronic tags. “Courts can now use contemporary measures such as monitoring deputies in prison. I hope that courts have understood this message given by Parliament.”

The Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) jailed deputies, Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal, and Engin Alan of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) face coup charges, while the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) six deputies in jail face charges of membership in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that prosecutors say includes the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They were elected to Parliament during last year’s general elections, and their nomination to run for Parliament led to a widespread controversy as they were already in jail back then.

Parliament’s 24th session

The first and second legislative sessions of the 24th term of the Turkish Parliament ended on July 4, with Parliament going into summer recess. Çiçek, during Thursday’s press statement, provided information on the activities of Parliament in the past year. The Parliament speaker thanked the leaders of the political parties, members of parliamentary groups, deputies, the parliamentary staff and the press. Çiçek said as parliament speaker he had met with 1,566 delegations representing business circles and civil society groups, and attended 163 social and cultural programs he had been invited to.

The start of working on drafting a new constitution for Turkey and the establishment of a commission to coordinate and oversee that work were the most important steps taken by Parliament in the past legislative session, according to Çiçek.

He said the most important work undertaken by Parliament in the final legislative session was the establishment of the parliamentary Reconciliation Commission and work that was started on drafting a new and more democratic constitution for Turkey. Çiçek stated that all political parties were represented in equal numbers in the commission, giving details about the structure and work of the commission, which has three subcommittees that have heard the opinions of 160 representatives from various public agencies, universities and civil society organizations to assist their work on the new constitution. Çiçek said he expected the commission to come up with a final draft by the end of the year.

Another important commission found in this legislative session is the Political Ethics Reconciliation Commission, Çiçek noted, adding that the commission held its first meeting on May 8. Çiçek said the commission was crucial to ensuring transparency, honesty and accountability in politics.

Customs minister says it’s up to courts to decide on deputies under arrest

Minister of Customs and Trade Hayati Yazıcı has said the decision whether to release parliamentary deputies under arrest lies with the courts, noting that the outcome could not possibly be related to a recent judicial reform package that abolished the Specially Authorized Courts, which are in charge of hearing terror or coup-attempt cases -- the areas where all of the jailed deputies face charges. “The release of deputies under arrest lies with courts and judges. This doesn’t have anything to do with the abolishment of the Specially Authorized Courts,” Yazıcı said, speaking at a briefing organized by the Economy Reporters Association on Thursday. The abolishment of the Specially Authorized Courts when a judicial reform package was adopted last week caused concern that the suspects in coup-related trials might walk free. The Specially Authorized Courts, however, have been criticized for exploiting the extensive powers they have.

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