Appeals court upholds prison sentence handed down to human rights defender and opposition MP Gergerlioğlu for tweet demanding peace

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals ruled on Friday to uphold a two-and-a-half-year sentence handed down to human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, Turkish media reported.

In February 2018 the Kocaeli 2nd High Criminal Court had sentenced Gergerlioğlu for anti-war comments posted on social media on World Peace Day in 2016. “We would rather see our children alive, side-by-side, than side-by-side in coffins,” his message said.

He will be stripped of his status as a deputy after the final verdict of the high court is read in parliament’s general assembly.

The local court accused him of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The appeals court’s decision came at a time when Gergerlioğlu has received threats from government and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials.

A medical doctor by profession, Gergerlioğlu served first as a provincial chair and later as director general of human rights group MAZLUMDER. He was elected to parliament in 2018 from the HDP, a left-wing party with majority-Kurdish support. He serves on parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

Gergerlioğlu was attacked by AKP lawmakers in December after he brought widespread claims of strip-searches and harassment in prisons and police custody to the floor of parliament and started a social media campaign with the hashtag #CiplakAramayaSessizKalma (Don’t stay silent against strip-searches).

AKP deputy group chairperson Özlem Zengin in a statement had accused Gergerlioğlu of terrorizing the legislature by bringing such allegations to the floor of parliament.

Following Zengin, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had slammed Gergerlioğlu for giving voice to the strip-search allegations in parliament.

“The slander that strip searches [take place] is dishonest and despicable,” Soylu had said. “It’s cheap to give voice to these [allegations] on the floor of parliament.”

Soylu had accused Gergerlioğlu of being a member of “FETÖ,” a derogatory acronym used by the government to label the Gülen movement, a faith-based group outlawed by Ankara, as a terrorist organization.

Last week a group of European lawmakers, academics and activists expressed solidarity with Gergerlioğlu and requested an end to threats against him in an open letter to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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