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Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals upholds prison sentence handed down to rights advocate lawmaker

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu

Turkey’s top court on Friday upheld a prison sentence of two years, six months handed down to pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Friday.

Immunity from prosecution afforded to lawmakers is not applicable when rights and freedoms are abused, the court said in its reasoning, citing the European Convention on Human Rights and the Turkish Constitution.

Referring to a social media post by Gergerlioğlu dated Aug. 20, 2016, the court said the fact that the deputy provided a link to a statement by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) showed that he embraced the statement.

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

In early February a group of European lawmakers, academics and activists expressed solidarity with Gergerlioğlu in a joint letter, also stating their concern about the ongoing repression of human rights activists in Turkey in general. “We expect public officials, politicians and prosecutors to stop threatening Gergerlioğlu and other human rights defenders,” the letter said.

Signatories of the letter include Chairman of the German Bundestag’s Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance Commission Gyde Jensen, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Dietmar Köster, German lawmakers Gökay Akbulut and Sevim Dağdelen and several human rights organizations.

Summaries of proceedings filed for HDP deputies

On the same day the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office filed summaries of proceedings for nine pro-Kurdish lawmakers, including HDP Co-chair Pervin Buldan, accusing them of “instigating” street protests in Turkey’s Southeast in 2014 that claimed the lives of 37 people.

The summaries of proceedings target HDP group deputy chairs Meral Danış Beştaş and Saruhan Oluç, lawmakers Garo Paylan, Hüda Kaya, Sezai Temelli, Pero Dündar, Fatma Kurtulan and Serpil Kemalbay, in addition to Buldan.

The prosecutor’s office will send the files to the Turkish Parliament.

The development came nearly two months after the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court accepted an indictment seeking punishment for 108 suspects, including jailed Kurdish leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, on various charges related to the protests that included 37 cases of homicide and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state.

Seventeen out of 20 HDP members who were detained on Sept. 25 due to their alleged connection to the Kobani protests were arrested by an Ankara in court on Oct. 2 on charges that include “membership in a terrorist organization” and “attempting to overturn the constitutional order.”

At the time Demirtaş called for street protests in support of Kurdish fighters in the Syrian town of Kobani while accusing the Turkish government of failing to provide adequate help to Kobani and of supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which had laid siege to the town.

The protests later morphed into fierce clashes in which 53 people were killed.

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