Thousands of Turkish lawyers marched in Ankara in a protest organised by the Union of Bar Associations, TBB, condemning the decision of the Supreme Court of Cassation to file a criminal complaint against the members of Constitutional Court, after it ordered the release of Can Atalay, a jailed Workers’ Party of Turkey MP.
“You cannot talk about law in a place where the decisions of the Constitutional Court are not implemented. What is intended to be created? An unlawful order, perhaps a regime change. We will not allow them to create an environment for this,” Mustafa Koroglu, head of the Ankara Bar Association said on Friday in a press conference.
Lawyers marched in a 6-kilometre-long cortege wearing their robes and carrying booklets of the Turkish constitution. The marched ended in front of the Supreme of Court of Cassation.
The Court of Cassation has ignored the Constitutional Court’s ruling, ordering the immediate release of Atalay. Instead it sent a decision to the office of Speaker of the Parliament to begin the process of revoking Atalay’s lawmaker status.
Lawyers, experts and the opposition accused the Court of staging a de facto judicial coup attempt.
Turkey’s top court had ruled on October 25 that the “right to vote and be elected” and the “right to personal liberty and security” had been violated in the case of the imprisoned MP.
According to the Turkish constitution, the Constitutional Court is the highest court in the country and its decisions are final. There is no right to appeal.
However, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has backed the Supreme Court of Cassation and questioned the Constitutional Court’s authority.
“The decision taken by the Court of Cassation cannot be set aside or pushed aside in any way. In response to the decision of the Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation has now said; ‘If you are the high court, I am also the high court, and as the high court, I am currently requesting a sanction against you,’” Erdogan told reporters on Friday in a plane on the way back from Uzbekistan.
Erdogan also accused the Constitutional Court of making mistakes. “Unfortunately, the Constitutional Court has been making many mistakes in this regard, one after another, which seriously saddens us,” he added.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP, organised a protest in the parliament after Numan Kurtulmus, the speaker, cancelled a parliamentary session on the judicial crisis.
CHP MPs spent the night at the parliament and said they will not leave until the parliament holds an extraordinary meeting. “We are faced with the elimination of the constitutional regime and a coup d’etat under the leadership of Erdogan,” Ozgur Ozel, leader of the CHP, said on Friday.
Lawyers and experts say the Constitutional Court explicitly emphasized that the first-instance court in Istanbul must immediately issue a release order for Atalay. However, the court did not release him and instead referred his case to the Court of Cassation.
Atalay has been in prison for more than a year. He was jailed for 18 years for his role in the so-called Gezi Park protests of 2013. The government classified the protests, the first nationwide uprising against President Erdogan’s rule, as an attempted coup.
Atalay was convicted in April 2022 in a trial that also saw the philanthropist and human rights activist Osman Kavala sentenced to life in prison for allegedly trying to overthrow Erdogan’s government.
Atalay was elected as an MP in the May 14 elections. His status as a legislator was approved by the Supreme Election Council and parliament.
Source : Balkan Insight