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17 April 2014, Thursday
 
 
Today's Zaman
 
 
 
 

Parliamentary immunity row for coup suspects likely after June 12 elections

15 May 2011, Sunday /ERCAN YAVUZ
Parliamentary immunity for suspects in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer coup cases will be a hot topic for Turkey after the June 12 general elections if the suspects happen to get elected to Parliament.

The suspects stand accused of crimes against the “integrity of the state,” which, according to Article 14 of the Constitution, require suspension of immunity for defendants. It is unclear for the time being whether the suspects will enjoy parliamentary immunity or will be denied immunity if they get elected in the June polls.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have been harshly criticized for nominating suspects in the ongoing coup cases as candidates for the post of deputy in the elections. The CHP nominated four Ergenekon suspects -- former Başkent University Rector Mehmet Haberal, journalist Mustafa Balbay, former Chief Public Prosecutor İlhan Cihaner and former Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) Chairman Sinan Aygün -- while the MHP nominated retired Gen. Engin Alan, a suspect in the Sledgehammer trial, in the elections. Ergenekon is a clandestine criminal network accused of working to overthrow the government, and Sledgehammer is a suspected military plot that allegedly sought to undermine the government and lay the groundwork for a military takeover.

Three of the suspects -- not including Aygün and Cihaner -- are currently under arrest. The suspects are all accused of being members of a terrorist organization, plotting to overthrow the government and destroying Parliament, all charges considered against the integrity of the state. There is a widespread belief that they will avoid prison terms for the next four years thanks to parliamentary immunity if they get elected in June. However, Article 14 of the Constitution stipulates restriction of immunities when crimes against the integrity of the state are committed.

According to some jurists, the suspects should not enjoy parliamentary immunity if they get elected to Parliament, and they should continue to stand trial in the relevant cases.

Prosecutors demanding 20 years in prison for least serious charges

Prosecutors involved in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases demand at least 20 years in jail for each nominee who is also a suspect in the Ergenekon or Sledgehammer cases. The cases are being heard in high criminal courts in İstanbul. According to prosecutors, some of the suspects should be punished with 20 years behind bars, while some others should be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Below is a list of charges against some of the candidates/suspects:

Balbay: The journalist was arrested on March 6, 2009, as part of the Ergenekon investigation. He is currently a candidate for deputy from İzmir, believed to be a stronghold for the main opposition CHP. The Ergenekon indictment accuses Balbay of various crimes committed against the integrity of the state. He is not charged with any crime linked to his profession as a journalist. Instead, he stands accused of becoming a member of an armed terrorist organization, attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey or rendering it functionless, attempting to destroy Parliament or rendering it functionless, seizing documents related to state security and inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey.

Haberal: The professor was arrested on April 17, 2009. He stayed in a hospital for almost two years due to health complaints and was only recently sent to Silivri Prison after a report by the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) suggested that he was healthy. He is now a deputy candidate from Zonguldak. Many believe that he will definitely be elected to Parliament. Haberal is accused of becoming a member of an armed terrorist organization, attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey or rendering it functionless, attempting to destroy Parliament or rendering it functionless and seizing documents related to state security. Prosecutors involved in the Ergenekon case have demanded two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for Haberal.

Cihaner: He was arrested on Feb. 17, 2010, when he was serving as a chief public prosecutor in Erzincan on the grounds that he was working to put a coup plan into operation in Erzincan. Only a few days later, the Supreme Court of Appeals set him free without waiting for the original documents regarding Cihaner’s case from an Erzurum court. He is currently a deputy candidate from Denizli. He stands accused of becoming a member of an armed terrorist organization, corruption during the period he served as the Erzincan chief public prosecutor, abuse of power and fabrication of documents.

Alan: The retired general was arrested on April 29, 2010, as part of the Sledgehammer case. He is still in Silivri Prison. He is mostly accused of crimes against the integrity of the state. He is a deputy candidate from İstanbul. As part of the Sledgehammer case, he stands accused of establishing or administrating an armed terrorist organization, attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey or rendering it functionless, inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey and attempting to destroy Parliament or rendering it functionless.

Other suspects running as independents in elections

There are also some other suspects in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases who will run as independent candidates in the June 12 elections. Among them are Workers’ Party (İP) leader Doğu Perinçek, retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, former head of the 1st Army, and journalist Tuncay Özkan.

Though Perinçek heads the İP, he decided to run as an independent candidate from İzmir in the June elections. He is accused of becoming a leader or member of an armed terrorist organization, attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey or rendering it functionless, inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey, attempting to destroy Parliament or rendering it functionless and seizing documents related to state security.

Doğan was arrested twice last year, but later released from prison. He was arrested for the third time on April 27 as part of an operation into the Sledgehammer case. He is believed to be the mastermind behind the Sledgehammer plan and is the chief suspect in the case. He is now an independent candidate from İstanbul. He is accused of becoming a member of an armed terrorist organization, inciting people to hatred and enmity, forcing members of the military to commit crimes, attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey or rendering it functionless, inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey, attempting to destroy Parliament or rendering it functionless and seizing documents related to state security.

Özkan was planning to be nominated as a deputy candidate by the CHP. However, he decided to run as an independent candidate from İstanbul after the CHP rejected his request for nomination. He has been under arrest since September 2008. He is an Ergenekon suspect, and is accused of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, storing weapons and bullets, attempting to destroy the government of the Republic of Turkey or rendering it functionless, inciting people to rebel against the Republic of Turkey, attempting to destroy Parliament or rendering it functionless and seizing documents related to state security.

 
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