Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s far-right ally, has criticized Turkey’s Constitutional Court for ordering the release from prison of a former lawmaker in a recent ruling, while Turkey’s main opposition leader has expressed support for the court’s decision, local media reported on Tuesday.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a former MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a prominent human rights activist, was stripped of his status in parliament on March 17 after conviction of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” in a 2016 social media post, was taken into custody on April 2 and sent to prison.
The top court last week ruled that Gergerlioğlu’s right to stand for election and engage in political activities as well as his right to liberty and security were violated through his imprisonment, paving the way for his release.
“How can [imprisonment due to] terrorist propaganda be considered a violation of rights? When the time comes, will there be a ‘rights violation’ decision for those bandits in the mountains, too? Since when do traitors have rights?” Bahçeli said on Tuesday during his party’s group meeting, referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Both the MHP and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accuse the HDP of links to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US. 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.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who also spoke at his party’s group meeting on Tuesday, however, said Gergerlioğlu must be released immediately in line with the decision of the top court.
“According to the constitution, decisions of the top court are immediately published in the Official Gazette, and they are binding for the legislative, executive, judicial and administrative authorities. Nevertheless, he [Gergerlioğlu] is still behind bars. Is this justice?” the CHP leader said.
Meanwhile, Bahçeli also expressed support for Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who has been at the center of bombshell allegations by a mafia boss and has been recently expected to quit his post or be dismissed by Erdoğan because of them.
“Who says Mr. Soylu is alone? No matter what is said about him, it is impossible for us to pay attention to those shameful rumors. We don’t accept the character assassination [of Soylu],” the MHP leader said.
The minister later on Tuesday expressed gratitude in a tweet for Bahçeli’s “trust and belief” in him. “May God bless him [Bahçeli],” Soylu said.
Soylu and his shadowy relations with the mafia have been a hot topic in the Turkish media ever since Sedat Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups and once a staunch supporter of Erdoğan, has since early May been making shocking revelations about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials and their family members.
Peker has claimed that it was connections to his family that had helped Soylu rise through the ranks of the right-wing True Path Party (DYP) before he joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2012 at the invitation of Erdoğan. He also claimed that Soylu helped him avoid police prosecution by notifying him that an investigation was being prepared against him, before he fled Turkey in early 2020. The mob boss further said Soylu previously told people that he and Erdoğan “liked” Peker.