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Rights advocate MP petitions top court over jail sentence

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Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu has petitioned Turkey’s Constitutional Court, claiming that his right to freedom of expression was violated over a prison sentence handed down to him on terror-related charges.

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals in February 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’s lawyer Kerem Altıparmak filed the lawmaker’s petition at the Constitutional Court.

Proceedings were launched against Gergerlioğlu over his social media posts at a high criminal court in the northwestern province of Kocaeli in 2017. The deputy stood trial on terrorism charges for sharing a news report on his Twitter account posted by the T24 news website on Aug. 20, 2016. The story included a statement from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. The headline was a quote from the PKK statement, saying, “If the state takes a step, peace will be achieved in a month,” meaning that Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem could be solved in a short time based on steps to be taken by the Turkish government.

Gergerlioğlu was given the jail sentence at the end of this trial on Feb. 21, 2018 on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda, and the conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals on Feb. 19.

In his petition to the top court, Gergerlioğlu said the tweet in question was about a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem and was an act of freedom of expression on a political issue on his part. The petition also made reference to the European Convention on Human Rights and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the issues of freedom of expression.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK. The party denies the government’s claim and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem. Hundreds of HDP politicians, including the party’s former co-chairs, are behind  bars on terrorism charges.

Gergerlioğlu was attacked by 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).

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