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Turkish court refuses to release new MPs from prison

A Turkish court decides to keep two recently elected MPs in prison on attempted coup charges, ignoring a 2007 legal precedent

AFP , Thursday 23 Jun 2011

A Turkish court Thursday rejected applications to free two jailed intellectuals awaiting trial on coup charges, after they were elected to parliament, Anatolia news agency reported.

Journalist Mustafa Balbay and academic Mehmet Haberal won parliamentary seats in the June 12 elections on the ticket of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

An Istanbul court ruled that there was "no legal ground for their demands for release," Anatolia reported.

Balbay and Haberal were among a total of nine people, including Kurdish politicians, who were elected to parliament from prison.

Lawyers had initiated legal procedures to secure their release in line with a precedent dating back to 2007, when a detained Kurdish activist was freed after she won a parliamentary seat while her trial continued.

Balbay and Haberal have been charged as part of a sprawling investigation into alleged plots to destabilise and overthrow the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won a third straight term in power in the polls.

The probes, hailed initially as a long-belated move to rein in the intrusive army, have come under fire for having degenerated into a government-backed campaign to bully critics.

Two other suspects -- a jurist and a businessman who spent stints in jail but were later released -- won seats on the CHP ticket.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu convened an emergency meeting with his aides immediately after the court decision to keep Balbay and Haberal in jail, the NTV news channel reported.

Political tensions had already shot up earlier Thursday when newly-elected Kurdish lawmakers announced they would boycott parliament when it convenes next week after the electoral board stripped one of them of his seat, citing a recently upheld terror-related conviction.


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