Prominent lawmaker facing expulsion from Turkish Parliament vows not to leave

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Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker in the Turkish Parliament and a prominent human rights activist, has vowed not to leave after a court decision is read on Wednesday that will strip him of his membership in the legislature.

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. Gergerlioğlu had been handed down the prison sentence by a high criminal court in February 2018.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court of Appeals’ decision will be read out at the General Assembly, and Gergerlioğlu will be stripped of his membership in parliament.

“I will be at the general assembly. So far none of the deputies who were ousted from parliament have been present [when the court decisions about them were read out]. I will probably be the first such example. Think about it, a member of parliament will be ousted while he’s sitting there. This will be a very traumatic situation for democracy and the will of the nation,” Gergerlioğlu told a group of reporters on Tuesday.

A medical doctor by profession, Gergerlioğlu served first as a provincial chair and later as director general of human rights group MAZLUMDER. He was elected to parliament in 2018 from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing party with majority-Kurdish support. He serves on parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

He said the court’s decision about him was very controversial and unlawful and they can take him out of parliament but that he will continue to wait at the heart of the nation.

“I don’t know where it will go, but I will continue to wait there. … Turkey and the entire world will see what it means to take a nation’s representative out of the parliament,” said Gergerlioğlu, recalling that he was elected to the legislature, receiving the votes of the 90,000 people.

Gergerlioğlu was attacked by Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers in December after he brought widespread claims of strip-searches and harassment in prisons and under police custody to the floor of parliament.

The HDP deputy also warned that scenes similar to those that occurred in the Turkish Parliament in 1994 when police detained several Kurdish deputies from a now-defunct party may take place on Wednesday.

“I will not leave here. They can come and take me here … because the nation sent me here,” said Gergerlioğlu as he called on other parties in parliament to stand against attempts to oust him.

“If they [other political parties] remain silent because I am an HDP deputy… This is really saddening because this contradicts the will of the nation they represent. … I am expecting other parties to stand up against this,” he said.

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.

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