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Monitors welcome Turkey Constitutional Court ruling and the release of former MP

PACE monitoring co-rapporteurs for Turkey, Nigel Evans (United Kingdom, EC/DA) and Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden, SOC), have welcomed the release of former HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder, following a decision of the Constitutional Court of Turkey.

On 3 October 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that the statements made in 2013 by former MP Sırrı Süreyya Önder did not incite people to use violence, did not pose a risk of crimes of terror, and could not be considered “an encouragement to use the methods of the terrorist organization [PKK] that involve force, violence or threat”. It therefore concluded that Mr Önder’s freedom of expression had been violated.

“In doing so, and by referring to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Constitutional Court has unanimously taken a landmark decision that should help guarantee deputies’ ability to freely express themselves and to exercise their political rights and activities, whether inside or outside of parliament,” said the co-rapporteurs. They emphasised, as spelled out in PACE Resolution 2260 (2019), that “the very essence of parliamentary work is to address all issues of public importance, including those which are sensitive or controversial but need to be addressed”.

To recall, from 2013 to 2015 Mr Önder, a deputy from the HDP party at the time, played a key role in the dialogue established by the Turkish authorities to resolve the Kurdish issue, which unfortunately collapsed in 2015. Mr Önder had been sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in prison for “spreading terrorist propaganda” following a speech in 2013 for the celebration of Newroz. His immunity was lifted in May 2016, together with that of 153 other MPs. He has been in detention since December 2018.

“We praise the positive judgment made by the Constitutional Court. This should further encourage the Turkish authorities to now take meaningful steps towards securing and expanding freedom of expression and media freedom. Today, we call on the parliament, which is currently examining a new judicial reform, to seize this opportunity to bring Turkey into line with Council of Europe standards, to review the legislation and ensure its implementation, with a view to strengthening the rights and abilities of parliamentarians, including those from the opposition, to contribute to public debate, address sensitive issues and propose solutions.

In the light of the Constitutional Court ruling, we now expect other former MPs who are unduly imprisoned to be released. The Assembly stands ready to continue political dialogue and to support Turkey`s efforts in fulfilling the obligations stemming from its membership to the Council of Europe,” they concluded.