An Istanbul court ruled on Monday that jailed journalist Mustafa Balbay will be released after more than four years in prison, reports the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
The ruling came following a Constitutional Court ruling that his lengthy imprisonment amounted to a “violation of the law” and a “violation of his right to be elected.” Balbay is the deputy head of the and Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“I sincerely hope that this process will be a fresh start,” Balbay said immediately after leaving the prison in Ankara, according to the Hurriyet.
Balbay, 53, who was elected to parliament in the 2011 general elections in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a third term in office, said he would probably take his parliamentary oath December 10, but wanted more than anything else to take the pledge in front of the public.
Vowing to fight against every kind of unlawfulness and injustice, Balbay particularly asserted that he would take on the duty of supporting the freedom of prisoners subject to unjust treatment and lengthy detentions.
“I feel responsible for the tens, even hundreds of detainees seeking justice, as I am the one who have now closed the doors on them,” he was quoted as having said.
“Even though it isn’t forgettable, this is not the time to bear grudges,” Balbay said, ending his remarks by declaring, “Hello to freedom and hello to Turkey.”
At present, six jailed lawmakers, several mayors, and tens of Gezi Park protesters, journalists, lawyers and soldiers are in prison, Balbay recalled, adding that he hopes his release “will be a fresh start to remove such rights violations.”
The prosecutor in the Ergenekon coup plot case, in which Balbay was sentenced to 34 years and eight months in prison pending appeal, demanded the court release him in the wake of the top court ruling.
The Constitutional Court ruled December 4 that the long imprisonment of the CHP deputy amounted to a “violation of rights.”
Balbay had petitioned to the Constitutional Court, claiming that his right to a fair trial had been violated, that his long imprisonment amounted to a violation of his rights, and that he had not been able to use his legislative immunity due to his detention.
Ergenekon is the name that was given to a network of people - including top ex-military personnel, journalists, businessmen and academics - who were accused of plotting to overthrow Erdogan’s government.
In August, several people were handed down life sentences in the plot, including Turkey’s former military chief Ilker Basbug.
The Court’s decision to release Balbay was actually welcomed by senior government representatives, reported the Hurriyet.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc praised the ruling, saying, “What I said three years ago has now come true,” He was referring to his repeated appeals for the release of deputies arrested on coup plot charges since the 2011 elections.
Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Cicek also voiced his satisfaction, while noting that he thought it had "come too late."
“I hope the unjust treatment of others who are also subjected to long detentions will be solved as well,” he said.
Balbay was first detained at his house in Ankara July 1, 2008, as a part of the wide-ranging Ergenekon investigation. After questioning and a search of his home, he was released on July 5, but his computer was seized. However, he was taken into custody once again on March 5, 2009 and arrested the next day.
He is one of the 275 suspects in the case, reported the Hurriyet.