A former lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has said his release from prison on Tuesday was a harbinger of the freedom of all the politicians from his party who are currently in jail.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, also a well-known human rights activist who had been behind bars since April 2 after a conviction was upheld, was released from Ankara’s Sincan Prison following a decision from Turkey’s Constitutional Court last week which 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.
Gergerlioğlu 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.
“My release is a harbinger of the freedom of our other friends. My release is a harbinger of the fact that the closure case [against the HDP] and the Kobani trial will yield no results,” Gergerlioğlu said at a news conference at HDP headquarters following his release.
He was referring to a closure case filed against the party by the country’s chief prosecutor at the Supreme Court of Appeals and a case in which more than 100 Kurdish politicians are standing trial for their alleged role in deadly protests in 2014 in Turkey’s Southeast, which were sparked due to the Turkish army’s inaction in the face of an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) offensive against the largely Kurdish northern Syrian town of Kobani.
The HDP is accused in the indictment of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU, and of posing a threat to the “indivisible integrity of the state.” Hundreds of members of the party, including its former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, have been behind bars for years on politically motivated charges.
Gergerlioğlu said he is dedicating “the victory” of his release to the people of Turkey. “I resisted [against pressure], but along with me, my party, the people, KHK platforms and all responsible people resisted. This is not my victory but one of the people.”
KHK stands for the executive decrees issued during a state of emergency in the aftermath of a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016, which led to the dismissal of more than 130,000 people from public service on the grounds that they had alleged links to terrorist groups.
These people, who are struggling to be reinstated to their jobs, have established platforms to make their voices heard regarding the various problems they face due to the loss of their jobs. Gergerlioğlu frequently brought the injustices faced by KHK victims to public attention on the floor of parliament.
In a statement to Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service, Gergerlioğlu also said he would continue to demand an accounting from the government about the human rights violations taking place in the country.
“In Turkey, saving the judiciary from the guardianship of politics is a must. I offer my thanks to our people, to those who seek justice,” said Gergerlioğlu.
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 detention centers to the attention of the legislators.
The revocation of Gergerlioğlu’s parliamentary status reduced the HDP’s seats in the 600-member assembly to 55. The status of two other HDP lawmakers was removed last year due to their convictions in court.
Gergerlioğlu is now expected to return to parliament.