Turkey’s main opposition calls for reinstatement of dismissed deputy’s rights

Following a ruling by Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM), opposition deputies from the secular centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) have called for the reinstatement of parliamentary rights for former CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu on Thursday.

Berberoğlu was stripped of his status in June, alongside two HDP deputies, when a prison sentence against the journalist-turned-politician was finalised. He was briefly detained after the stripping, and was released as part of Turkey’s coronavirus measures.

In his appeal to the AYM, Berberoğlu had argued that the legal proceedings that had begun before his election to parliament should have been suspended during his term, as he was entitled to immunity as a lawmaker.

On Thursday, the AYM ruled in Berberoğlu’s favour, saying his dismissal had violated his right to participate in politics and personal freedom.

The former deputy had been sentenced to five years and ten months in prison over charges of espionage and revealing state secrets for allegedly providing a newspaper with footage incriminating Turkey’s intelligence agency, MİT. The Court of Cassation finalised the sentence in 2018, but deferred the execution of his sentence until after his term in parliament was over.

Berberoğlu was stripped of his immunity when a Parliament order was read out on June 4 this year.

After the AYM ruling came out, CHP tweeted out a statement saying, “The AYM has unanimously confirmed that our Istanbul deputy Enis Berberoğlu was dismissed in violation of the Constitution, and that the decision to do so was unlawful. This should be a lesson in law for those who ignore the will of the people.”

On Thursday, CHP representative for the Parliamentary Justice Commission, Zeynel Emre, called the government “incompetent” and said his party had objected to Berberoğlu’s dismissal as the AYM ruling had been yet to come.

“This ruling confirms that (Parliamentary Speaker Mustafa Şentop) had cast the shadow of the palace on the will of the people on June 4,” CHP deputy Özgür Özel said, and called for Berberoğlu’s reinstatement.

“This ruling by the high court has removed the conviction order on our client, obligating that he face a just trial over again,” Berberoğlu’s lawyers said in a statement. “If Parliament had waited four more months for the AYM ruling to come out, today Berberoğlu would not have been stripped of his status over a confirmed unlawful sentence, and the will of the electorate would not have been trampled,” news website T24 cited the lawyers as saying.

The journalist Berberoğlu allegedly handed over the footage to, then-editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper Can Dündar, was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison over similar charges of espionage, and a local Turkish court on Thursday ruled to have Dündar’s assets in Turkey seized if he did not return to the country in 15 days. Dündar has been living in exile in Germany since 2016.