President Abdullah Gül has said Turkey’s courts will make the decision on whether to release from prison deputies currently under arrest in light of the information they possess and under laws currently in force.
“Now courts will interpret the [newly] adopted laws. They will make their decisions [whether to release jailed deputies] in the light of the information and laws they hold in their hands,” the president said on Monday at a press conference he called. The president’s remarks came in response to a reporter’s question concerning what he thinks about requests coming from jailed deputies for their release.
Turkey has nine deputies in jail -- two from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and one from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) who face coup charges and six from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) who face charges of membership in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the urban branch of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). All nine deputies were elected to Parliament during last year’s general elections, and their nominations to run for Parliament led to a widespread controversy as they were already in jail.
The deputies appealed to relevant courts last week to benefit from a new law inserted in the third judicial reform package, demanding their release from prison. They claim that the newly approved reform package allows them to be released from jail pending trial.
The president declined to provide further comments about the jailed deputies.
The third judicial reform package, which was passed by Parliament last week, curtailed the powers of specially authorized courts.
Specially authorized courts dealing with coup and terror cases were abolished and replaced with regional terrorism courts. The package said special courts will continue to oversee existing coup and terror cases until a final verdict is reached. Some of the cases currently being heard by special courts include Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network accused of plotting to overthrow the government, Balyoz (Sledgehammer), a suspected coup plot believed to have been devised in 2003 with the aim of unseating the government through violent acts, and the KCK.
In addition, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ spoke to reporters on Sunday about the jailed deputies and said deciding on arresting or releasing suspects from prison pending trial belongs solely to judges. “The [recently adopted] laws are procedural amendments,” he said and added that the laws should not be considered “orders” to courts to release the deputies or other suspects from prison.
Turkey’s political parties have long discussed the situation of the jailed deputies. Earlier this year, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) held talks with the CHP, the MHP and the BDP under the leadership of Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek to come up with a formula to ensure the release of the jailed deputies from prison pending trial. The talks, however, were unfruitful due to the reluctance of the ruling party.
The AK Party has long been opposed to the release of jailed deputies from prison but gave the green light for their release after the adoption of the third judicial reform package in Parliament. Çiçek, who was elected to Parliament from the AK Party, said last week that the reform package enabled the use of modern devices to facilitate 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,” he said.