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 of an opposition lawmaker who on Friday returned to his seat in parliament four months after his expulsion, local media reported on Friday.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, also a well-known human rights activist who had been behind bars since April 2 after his conviction over a social media post in 2016 was upheld, was released from jail on July 6 on a decision from Turkey’s Constitutional Court. The top court 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.
Following his release from prison, Gergerlioğlu petitioned the legislature, demanding a return to his parliamentary seat. On Friday, a ruling by the Kocaeli 2nd High Criminal Court in line with the top court’s decision was read out in parliament, allowing the deputy to return.
“The Constitutional Court’s rights violation ruling regarding Gergerlioğlu from HDP [the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party] doesn’t represent respect for people’s rights, but implicit support of terrorism. … Separatists have no rights, terrorists have no rights,” Bahçeli tweeted on Friday.
Bahçeli has called for a restructuring of the top court in line with the executive presidency that was introduced in 2018 thanks to support from his party. Bahçeli said in April that the court couldn’t continue to operate as currently structured and that the Turks are capable of and have the right to build a new top court that is “in line with the nation’s history.”
The MHP leader on Friday reiterated his call to shut down the court, saying: “Our opinion regarding the Constitutional Court hasn’t changed. The restructuring of this court with a new and civil constitution is the only desire and expectation of the nation.”
“He made a statement in anger. … He couldn’t defeat the people’s will, democracy or the Constitution. … I’m a human rights defender. I can’t answer him in the same tone. … We’ve come back so strongly that they can make any angry statement they want,” Gergerlioğlu told the Mezopotamya news agency regarding Bahçeli’s remarks.
The MP also expressed frustration with the Parliament Speaker’s Office in his first speech in parliament after regaining his seat, saying they couldn’t wait until his individual application to the top court was finalized before stripping him of his status in parliament.
“Now, they say, ‘Sorry, you can come back.’ If the Speaker’s Office had wanted to wait [for the top court decision], they could’ve done that. … They made a historic mistake,” Gergerlioğlu said.
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.
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.