Turkish court upholds jail sentence for pro-Kurdish lawmaker

Turkish court upholds jail sentence for pro-Kurdish lawmaker
Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu received a two-year-and-a-half sentence upheld by Turkey’s Court of Appeal, after being outspoken about Turkish government on social media.
3 min read
21 February, 2021
Gergerlioglu was convicted on charges of "making terrorist propaganda" by Turkey's Cour of Appeal [GETTY]
An activist member of parliament who exposed human rights abuses was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison on Thursday, which prompted a widespread condemnation of the Erdogan regime.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu got his sentence upheld by Turkey's Court of Appeal. Member of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the government accuses him of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish militant political organization and armed guerilla movement.

Gergerlioglu was convicted on charges of "making terrorist propaganda" for retweeting a news story about the Kurdish conflict and the collapse of the peace process.

His conviction over a social media post had the "hallmark of an attempt to silence him", Amnesty International's Turkey campaigner Milena Buyum told Arab News. "The extent of the dissenting opinion of the appeal court judge confirms this concern […] No one should be subjected to judicial harassment for highlighting allegations of human rights violations."

Last December, Gergerlioglu had reported that 23 female suspects and detainees had been subjected to humiliating strip searches by police in provinces across Turkey during their detention starting from on August 31, 2020, claims supported by thousands of prisoners who described their experiences of systematic sexual violence at the hands of the police.

In reaction, interior minister Suleyman Soylu denied them and accused the MP of being a "terrorist".

Despite having graduated from the Medical School of the Anatolu University in 1990, he was suspended from public service due to one of the messages he shared on social media and later dismissed from the profession by presidential decree.

His son Salih told Arab News: "After my dad was dismissed from the medical profession a couple of years ago, he was punched in the middle of the street by someone who claimed that he was a terrorist. I remember very well the big bruise on his face. He was so calm but I wasn’t. He explains to everyone that he was on the right track."

The International Observatory of Human Rights and other human rights organizations wrote a letter to president Erdogan on his behalf, in order to express "concerns about the current sheer human rights violations committed by Turkey against many individuals such as Mr. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu".

The letter said: "He is an honourable Turkish citizen who has been involved in tireless efforts to champion human rights in Turkey and continues to work with many institutions that share the same values and who are struggling to this end. […] IOHR and the signatories to this letter stand in solidarity with Mr. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. We call on the authorities in Turkey to investigate and stop all threats directed by public officials, politicians and prosecutors at Mr. Gergerlioğlu and other human rights defenders."

According to journalist and writer Abdullah Ayasun, "both the court's ruling and the subsequent public uproar tell a lot about the government’s unmasked fear and the lawmaker's strong appeal in a society gripped by an endless political clampdown over the past years".

Since 2007, he has been writing about national and global political issues in local, national and international newspapers and websites, given many interviews on human rights violations.

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