Politicians, journalists and human rights activists from around the world have reacted on social media against a recent decision by Turkey’s top court to uphold a prison sentence handed down to pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu on terror-related charges.
The Supreme Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a prison sentence of two years, six months given to the rights advocate lawmaker on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda, a move that has sparked outrage in Turkey and beyond, with thousands of Twitter users posting messages under the hashtag #GergerlioğlununYanındayız (We stand by Gergerlioğlu).
According to the court’s reasoning, the accusation against Gergerlioğlu is based on a social media post shared by him on Aug. 20, 2016 that included a link to a statement by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — an armed Kurdish group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.
Milena Büyüm, Amnesty International’s Turkey campaigner, said the 21-page decision upholding the MP’s conviction and sentence included 16 pages of the dissenting judge’s opinion, which argued that Gergerlioğlu’s prosecution should have been halted when he entered parliament.
“The law under which he was convicted does not apply; if it was considered a crime has been committed, he should have been prosecuted under a different article. Thus, the conviction should be overturned,” Büyüm tweeted, adding that the lawmaker’s conviction had “the hallmarks of attempting to silence him.”
“As an MP, Gergerlioğlu consistently speaks out against rights violations. He must be free to continue to do so without judicial harassment and intimidation,” she said.
Rebecca Harms, a former Green member of the European Parliament, said the MP would lose his freedom and his mandate because he loves the people and defends the truth.
“He is one of strongest defenders of human rights in Turkey. Jailing him is another severe violation of human rights,” she added.
Kati Piri, the European Parliament (EP) rapporteur for Turkey, said Gergerlioğlu’s sentence was upheld because he was principled and outspoken on human rights.
“[President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s Turkey uses the judiciary as an instrument of oppression,” she said.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) Turkey director Emma Sinclair-Webb referred to Gergerlioğlu in a tweet as one of Turkey’s bravest and most principled rights defenders who consistently demands justice for the most marginalized victims without regard for their political identity.
“The [Turkish] government has targeted him, he faces a bogus conviction,” she tweeted.
Sergey Lagodinsky, a member of the European Parliament, said he was repulsed by the court decision to impose a prison sentence on Gergerlioğlu for merely sharing a news article. “This is another step away from democratic standards,” Lagodinsky added.
“Gergerlioğlu has always been someone who defends justice, exposes injustice and tries to prevent torture [in Turkish prisons]. The Erdoğan regime was disturbed by this and therefore wanted to punish him,” Lawyers in Exile, a platform founded by lawyers from Turkey to monitor human rights violations, tweeted.
Journalist Can Dündar commented that the deputy’s imprisonment would trigger “a riot of conscience” since he defended the rights of so many people with very different backgrounds and ideologies.
“We often use the saying, ‘This attack targeted us all.’ I think Gergerlioğlu’s situation is where this saying fits exactly right. He unrelentingly defended people’s rights without questioning who they were. Now it’s our turn. We’ve got your back, Mr. Gergerlioğlu, no ifs, ands or buts,” prominent human rights jurist Kerem Altıparmak tweeted.