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Rights advocate MP to challenge jail sentence at Constitutional Court

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Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu has announced that he is taking a court ruling handing down a prison sentence to him on terror-related charges to the country’s Constitutional Court to prevent it from taking effect.

Turkey’s 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 in solidarity with Gergerlioğlu.

Gergerlioğlu said at a news conference in parliament that he is making the application to the Constitutional Court on Monday, explaining that his membership in parliament cannot be revoked regardless of the jail sentence. He cited the case of Enis Berberoğlu, who was tried on espionage charges, jailed and subsequently stripped of his parliamentary membership after his conviction but recently returned to parliament based on a Constitutional Court ruling.

The court decided unanimously in January that Berberoğlu’s rights to stand for elections and engage in political activities had been violated by lower courts because legal proceedings against him should have been suspended due to his re-election as a member of parliament in the country’s June 2018 elections.

“Berberoğlu was subjected to a great injustice, and it has been corrected by the top court. Are you trying to create a second Berberoğlu case, do you want yet another scandal? Everyone knows that the ruling for me is political,” said Gergerlioğlu.

The HDP deputy, who is appreciated by many for being the voice of people who are subjected to rights violations regardless of their views or background, said the jail sentence given him was due to the government’s unhappiness about his struggle for human rights.

“I will never bend, everyone should know this. I am not the kind of person who would bow to such unlawful attacks. I fear only God, not anyone else,” said Gergerlioğlu.

The renowned politician 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.

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