Court releases jailed CHP deputy Mustafa Balbay

Photo: Court releases jailed CHP deputy Mustafa Balbay / Turkey

An Istanbul court decided to release main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Mustafa Balbay, shortly after prosecutors asked the court to release from prison Balbay, who was convicted in the Ergenekon trial of plotting a coup against the government and sentenced to 34 years in prison in August, based on a recent ruling of the Constitutional Court, Today's Zaman reported.

Prosecutors earlier on Monday asked the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court release jailed CHP Deputy Balbay from prison.

The court responded to the call positively and ruled Balbay's release.

In initial remarks upon his release from an Ankara prison, Balbay said he expected to take his oath for the parliamentary seat he won in 2011 on Tuesday. He had not been able to do so because he had been imprisoned since 2009.

If the Court of Appeals rejects Balbay's request for his conviction to be quashed, he may have to return to prison even though as a parliamentarian he would enjoy immunity from prosecution.

Television footage showed Balbay coming out of prison and hugging a fellow CHP lawmaker and being welcomed by scores of supporters gathered in freezing cold waving Turkish flags.

Mustafa Balbay, who ran for Parliament in 2011 under the banner of the CHP while in detention but before his conviction, applied to the Constitutional Court based on a 2010 referendum that allowed private citizens to do so for the review of their cases. His application stated that his right to be elected had been violated because he was not able to perform his parliamentary duties while in detention pending the conclusion of his trial. He also filed a complaint about his long detention time. The court ruled last week that his right to be elected as per Article 19 of the Constitution had been violated. It also ordered the state to pay TL 5,000 in compensation to Balbay.

Balbay's lawyers then petitioned the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court for his release. The court asked the prosecutors who tried the Ergenekon case for their assessment. The prosecutors, Mehmet Ali Pekguzel, Nihat Tashkın and Murat Dalkush, then also requested Balbay's release based on the decision of the Constitutional Court.

The judges convened on Friday to discuss the prosecutors' assessment. Shenal Sarihan, one of Balbay's lawyers, had said that Balbay and his legal team expect him to be released. "I hope it will be a legitimately made decision," he said.

Balbay's lawyer also criticized the court for not having immediately acted on the ruling of the Constitutional Court five days ago.

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