The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a global organization of national parliaments, has said in a recent decision regarding the case of a former Turkish opposition lawmaker who was arrested on a terrorism conviction in April that his continued detention was arbitrary and should be immediately ended.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a doctor, human rights defender and former MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was stripped of his status in parliament on March 17 after conviction of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” in a 2016 social media post, where he commented on a story that reported on outlawed Kurdish militants calling on the Turkish state to take a step towards peace.
A two-and-a-half-year jail sentence handed down to him on Feb. 21, 2018 was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals on Feb. 19, 2021, and the 55-year-old politician, who has shone a light on controversial topics including torture and prison strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers, was taken into custody at his home on April 2 and sent to prison.
“Mr. Gergerlioğlu’s continued detention is arbitrary and should be immediately ended,” the organization stated, adding that it “sincerely hopes that available legal avenues can still bring this about.”
The IPU argued that the former MP was “serving a harsh prison term as a result of the legitimate use of his right to freedom of expression,” noting that he simply sent a tweet in which he forwarded an existing news report and included an implicit call for peace negotiations to take place.
The organization also said it considers Gergerlioğlu’s case as “further proof that the Turkish authorities have not been striking the right balance between their legitimate fight against terrorism and respect for the human rights of opposition members of parliament, in particular their freedom of expression.”
The IPU further said that it confirmed, citing information it has thus far been able to obtain over the years -– particularly several court decisions and their analysis –- that HDP MPs have been charged and convicted primarily for making public statements, posting tweets and participating in organizing or calling for rallies and protests.
Calling on Turkish authorities, once more, to take more decisive action to ensure that current national legislation and its application are in line with international and regional standards on freedom of opinion and expression, assembly and association, and on the independence of the judiciary, the organization said it looks forward to hearing about concrete steps taken to this end.
The IPU’s call on Turkey regarding the case of Gergerlioğlu came after a complaint was filed with the organization by the International Association for Human Rights Advocacy in Geneva (IAHRA GENEVA) in March.