Jailed former MP faces 5 more years in prison over his ‘justice watch’

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Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a former MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who was stripped of his parliamentary status in March and subsequently jailed, faces up to five years in prison for staging a “justice watch” in the Turkish Parliament following his expulsion.

Gergerlioğlu, a renowned human rights activist and a medical doctor by profession, refused to leave the chamber after hearing the decision against him on March 17 and spent several days in his parliament office, launching a justice watch against what he said was his unlawful expulsion. He even procured a mattress and slept on the floor of his office until an army of police officers came to detain him. Gergerlioğlu, who was forced to leave the parliament building in a dawn raid several days later, continued his justice watch outside until his imprisonment in early April.

According to a new indictment drafted by Ankara prosecutors, Gergerlioğlu unlawfully continued to act as a member of parliament March 18-20 and stayed there day and night. He is accused of criminal trespass and unlawfully assuming a public post, charges that call for a prison sentence of up to five years under Turkish law.

The 55-year-old politician, who has shone a light on controversial topics including torture and strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers, was expelled from parliament over terror charges linked to a 2016 social media post in which he commented on a story that reported on outlawed Kurdish militants calling on the Turkish state to take a step towards peace.

Gergerlioğlu was given the prison sentence at the end of his trial on Feb. 21, 2018, and the conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals on Feb. 19.

The HDP is accused by the government of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. Although the pro-Kurdish party denies the claim, a government-led crackdown on the HDP reached new heights following a failed coup in July 2016.

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