Turkish court gives jail sentence for human rights activist Gergerlioğlu

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu

A Turkish court has sentenced writer and human rights activist Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu to two-and-a half-years in prison for anti-war comments posted on social media on World Peace Day in 2016. Gergerlioğlu, whose comments included, “We would rather see our children alive, side-by-side, than side-by-side in coffins,” was the former head of human rights association MAZLUM-DER.

The court has sentenced him on charges of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organisation.” Evaluating the verdict for the online news portal Artı Gerçek, Gergerlioğlu commented that the sentence was the maximum allowed and that the prosecution had not requested such a stiff sentence. He said he would appeal the decision.

“I have always been in favour of human rights all my life. I reject conflicts. I am on the side of dialogue and reconciliation, I defend everyone’s right. So, I do not accept this very unjust decision, made at a time when the law is abolished, and leave this matter to the public conscience. I will continue to struggle so that all people in this land can live freely and in accordance with human rights. I will not lose hope that this period, when unbelievable cruelties and unscrupulous acts are made in the name of law, will pass. I will continue my efforts to re-establish the rule of law,” said Gergerlioğlu.

Meanwhile, journalist Nurcan Baysal has given a 10-month prison sentence for one of her articles in 2016 criticizing a Turkish military operation on the mainly-Kurdish town of Cizre. Baysal, who was found guilty by an Ankara court of demeaning the Turkish security forces, was released on condition she didn’t repeat the offence within five years, according to a report by Artı Gercek.

During the court hearing Baysal said that she was a journalist visiting Cizre and was obliged to report inhumane events there, as per her rights under the Constitution, reported the Artı Gerçek.

Turkey launched an operation against Kurdish militants holed up in Cizre in September 2015, sealing off the city and placing a curfew for eight days. The town had limited access to water and food and many of the injured were prohibited from receiving professional medical treatment. The Council of Europe raised concerns about “disproportionate use of force by security forces against civilians.” The mayor of Cizre was removed from her post accused of inciting hatred and supporting terrorism.

Baysal, based in Diyarbakır, the largest city in southeast Turkey, is a contributor to Ahval and online news portal T24.  She worked for many years for the United Nations on poverty, development and migration issues in the region.

Also on Wednesday, T24 has strongly condemned attempts by the pro-government Hürriyet daily to have its Twitter, Google and Facebook social media accounts suspended. T24 has announced that its Twitter account had been briefly suspended on Wednesday after a lawyer acting on behalf of Hürriyet daily told Twitter that T24 was stealing content, according to a report by online news portal Ahval.

There was a longstanding “high-level” agreement, T24 said, that allowed it to use Hürriyet material sent by e-mail from Hürriyet each day. It said the materials were always sourced as coming from Hürriyet, as opposed to many occasions when Hürriyet used T24 reports without sourcing. “T24, as an organisation that began operations on Sept. 1, 2009 … and has taken important steps towards institutionalizing independent journalism in Turkey, condemns Hürriyet,” T24 said.

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