The ongoing detention of Can Atalay, who was elected as the Hatay MP from the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) in the 14 May elections, is a constitutional violation, said renowned Turkish constitutional lawyer İbrahim Özden Kaboğlu on Thursday.
Kaboğlu emphasised that releasing Atalay and suspending his trial, in the absence of a final judgment, are constitutional requirements that should not be subject to legal debate. He strongly criticised certain lawyers and politicians for their statements, suggesting that their motivations may stem either from malice or a lack of knowledge.
Kaboğlu stressed that the Constitutional Court has recognised the rights of elected representatives not only to run for office but also to actively perform their duties as MPs. Any interference with the participation of MPs in legislative activities, including detention, constitutes a violation.
Meanwhile, simultaneous protests erupted across Turkey on Thursday, demanding the immediate release of Atalay. As Atalay is a prominent lawyer known for handling high-profile social cases, his colleagues gathered in front of the Istanbul Courthouse to advocate for his release.
Failure to release Atalay even after he was elected ignited debates, with pro-government voices attempting to justify his imprisonment, while the opposition consistently calls for his release based on constitutional principles and legal precedent.
Yılmaz Tunç, the newly appointed Justice Minister, has argued that the charges against Atalay render him ineligible for immunity. However, TİP Chairman Erkan Baş questioned Tunç’s determination, highlighting that there is no final judgment yet and that the case is still pending at the Court of Cassation. Baş further pointed out the inconsistency of being able to run for office and get elected if there were already a judgment against Atalay.
TİP spokeswoman Sera Kadıgil emphasised that keeping Atalay in prison also meant punishing the people in quake-hit Hatay, who elected him as a legislator, for seeking accountability for the devastation caused by the earthquake.
Atalay was handed an 18-year prison sentence last year over attempting to topple the government in the case regarding the 2013 Gezi Park Protests.