ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s top court of appeals has clashed with the country’s Constitutional Court over the release of a newly elected but imprisoned lawmaker, raising concerns over the erosion of the rule of law in the country.
The court of appeals said Wednesday it would not abide by the Constitutional Court’s ruling calling for the release of Can Atalay, who was elected to parliament in May while in prison.
The court of appeals also took the unprecedented step of filing a criminal complaint against Constitutional Court justices who ruled for the politician’s release, accusing them of violating the constitution. It said it would instruct parliament to begin the process of unseating Atalay.
The court of appeals’ decision to defy the Constitutional Court — Turkey's highest court — sparked widespread criticism and concerns about the state of the judiciary.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, held an emergency meeting to discuss the issue, describing the court of appeals' decision as a “coup attempt against parliament.”
“The decision does not only target Can Atalay,” said CHP chairman Ozgur Ozel at the end of the meeting. “It is an attempt to resist the constitution, to eliminate the constitutional order and an insurrection.”
Parliament's consultative body and the Turkish Lawyers' Association were scheduled to hold meetings on Thursday to discuss the impasse.
There was no immediate comment from the government, but Hayati Yazici, a deputy chairman of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, expressed concerns over the development.
“We are experiencing an event that should never have happened. What a shame,” Yazici wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “The powers that make up the state solve problems. They don’t create problems.”
Atalay, a lawyer and human rights activist, was convicted last year, along with seven other defendants, of attempting to overthrow the government for organizing nationwide protests in 2013. Atalay, who rejects the accusation, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He won a parliamentary seat in general elections in May while serving the sentence.
The Constitutional Court, which reviewed his case last month, had ruled for Atalay’s release, saying his freedoms and rights to hold office were being violated.
The brush between the two high courts came as the European Union’s executive branch released its annual report on Turkey’s membership, criticizing what it said were serious deficiencies in the functioning of the country’s democratic institutions, backsliding in the judiciary and deterioration in human and fundamental rights.
Wyandanch library suspends janitor ... LIers lead in speed camera tickets ... A very special father-daughter dance... Eating in Oyster Bay