Turkey’s top court says jailed former lawmaker’s rights were violated

Turkish member of Parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu (C) reacts as he is surrounded by MPs applauding and brandishing placards after he was expelled following a vote at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, on March 17, 2021. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Turkey’s Constitutional Court on Thursday ruled that Turkey violated the rights of Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a former pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker and a prominent human rights activist who was stripped of his parliamentary status in March and was subsequently jailed.

According to Turkish Minute, the court ruled that Gergerlioğlu’s right to be elected and engage in political activities as well as his right to liberty and security were violated through his imprisonment.

“The Constitutional Court has ruled a ‘rights violation’ in the case of my father. My father is being released from prison, he is being released,” Gergerlioğlu’s son Salih tweeted following the announcement of the ruling on Thursday.

The top court sent a notice to the Kocaeli High Criminal Court, which had ordered Gergerlioğlu’s arrest, to start the official paperwork for his release.

Gergerlioğlu was stripped of his status in parliament on March 17 after conviction of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” in a 2016 social media post, where he commented on a story that reported on outlawed Kurdish militants calling on the Turkish state to take a step towards peace.

A two-and-a-half-year jail sentence handed down to him on Feb. 21, 2018 was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals on Feb. 19, 2021, and the 55-year-old politician, who has shone a light on controversial topics including torture and prison strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers, was taken into custody at his home on April 2 and sent to prison.

In his application to the Constitutional Court, Gergerlioğlu referred to the top court’s recent ruling on the case of Enis Berberoğlu, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The court decided unanimously in January that Berberoğlu’s right to stand for elections and engage in political activities had been violated by the lower courts.

Berberoğlu was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2017 on espionage charges for providing the Cumhuriyet newspaper with a video purporting to show Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucking weapons into Syria.

Gergerlioğlu was attacked by Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers in December after he brought widespread claims of strip-searches and harassment in prisons and detention centers to the floor of parliament.

The revocation of Gergerlioğlu’s status reduced the HDP’s seats in the 600-member assembly to 55. The parliamentary status of two other HDP lawmakers was removed last year due to convictions against them.

The AKP government accuses the HDP of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies. The party denies the government’s claim and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem. Hundreds of HDP politicians, including the party’s former co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges.

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