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US says expulsion of rights advocate MP from parliament “troubling move” for Turkey

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during the daily press briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC, on February 25, 2021. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / POOL / AFP)

US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Wednesday described Ankara’s expulsion of opposition lawmaker and prominent human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu from parliament in a press statement as a “troubling move” on Turkey’s part.

“The United States is closely following events in Turkey, including  troubling  moves on March 17 to strip  Member of Parliament  Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his parliamentary seat,” Price said, after the Turkish Parliament expelled the MP due to a prison sentence he was handed down for a tweet.

Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was stripped of his parliamentary membership after a Supreme Court of Appeals decision upholding a prison sentence of two years, six months given to the rights advocate lawmaker on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda was read out in the General Assembly.

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 HDP and served on parliament’s Human Rights Committee.

Proceedings were launched against Gergerlioğlu over his social media posts, and the deputy stood trial on terrorism charges for sharing a news report on Twitter. He was given the jail sentence at the end of his 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.

The revocation of his status reduced the HDP’s seats in the 600-member assembly to 55. The parliamentary status of two other HDP lawmakers was removed last year due to convictions against them.

A Turkish prosecutor later on Wednesday asked the Constitutional Court to shut down the HDP altogether.

Referring to the development, Price also said: “We are also monitoring the initiation of efforts to dissolve the [Peoples’] Democratic Party, a decision that would unduly subvert the will of Turkish voters, further undermine democracy in Turkey, and deny millions of Turkish citizens their chosen representation.”

Price further stated that Washington is calling on the Turkish government to “respect freedom of expression in line with protections in the Turkish constitution and with Turkey’s international obligations.”

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accuses the HDP of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. The party denies the AKP’s claims and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem and only coming under attack because of its  strong opposition to AKP leader and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 18-year rule.

Hundreds of HDP politicians, including the party’s former co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges.

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