ISTANBUL Dec 9 Journalist and elected
parliamentarian Mustafa Balbay was freed from prison on Monday
pending appeal after Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled his
pre-trial detention period of more than four years had violated
Balbay was among 275 defendants including an ex-military
chief, retired officers, academics, journalists and opposition
politicians given mostly long prison terms in August over an
alleged ultra-nationalist plot to overthrow Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted government.
The Constitutional Court ruled last week that the four years
and nine months Balbay spent in prison pending trial had
violated his rights to freedom and representation of the people
as an elected parliamentarian.
Balbay, a member of the main opposition Republican People's
Party's (CHP), was sentenced to almost 35 years in prison. He
had denied any role in the "Ergenekon" conspiracy network.
Defence lawyers have appealed against the guilty verdicts in
the marathon, five-year-long Ergenekon trial but a final
Constitutional Court decision is not expected before 2015.
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
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.
(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Mark Heinrich)