Twitter users call on Turkish authorities to release former MP Gergerlioğlu

Turkish Twitter users conducted a hashtag campaign on Monday calling on authorities to release Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a former lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a prominent human rights activist who was stripped of his parliamentary status in March and subsequently jailed.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court on July 1 ruled that the rights of Gergerlioğlu in his imprisonment on conviction of dissemination of “terrorist” propaganda had been violated. Despite the court’s ruling, which required Gergerlioğlu’s immediate release from prison, the former deputy has not been freed.

The hashtag #GergerlioğluBırakılsın (Release Gergerlioğlu) was shared widely by Turkish social media users to appeal to authorities.

The court ruled that Gergerlioğlu’s right to stand for election and engage in political activities as well as his right to liberty and security were violated. His son, Salih, and some HDP officials and rights activists launched a “justice watch” on Monday in front of Sincan Prison in Ankara where Gergerlioğlu is jailed.

The police used force to disperse participants of the justice watch and detained Gergerlioğlu’s son, Salih, and four others including a journalist; Melek Çetinkaya, the mother of a former military cadet; and two HDP officials. The four detainees were released later on Monday, while Nazım Fayık, a cameraman for the Artı TV station, was released under judicial supervision.

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.

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