EU officials criticize decision to strip pro-Kurdish MP’s parliamentary immunity
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The European Union’s special rapporteur and the Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee on Turkey criticized the decision to strip the parliamentary status of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu.
On August 20, 2016, two years before he was elected, Gergerlioglu tweeted and commented on a news story in which the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) called on the Turkish government to take a step towards peace.
Last month, Turkey’s top appeals court upheld Gergerlioglu’s subsequent conviction and sentence of two years and six months in prison for the tweet sharing the news article and its accompanying photograph of PKK fighters.
On Wednesday, the European Parliament Standing Rapporteur for Turkey Nacho Sanchez Amor and the Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee Sergey Lagodinsky said the "conviction, expulsion and expected incarceration (of MP Gergerlioglu) because of a social media post constitute a severe violation of his human rights and another serious step that further undermines the trust in Turkey‘s parliamentary democracy.”
“His case is another crude example of the dire situation of freedom of speech in the country, the abuse of anti-terror measures to silence any critical voice and the particular crackdown on opposition, especially the HDP party, in an attempt to limit pluralism and political debate,” the joint statement added.
The HDP said the decision is a 'civil coup' by the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) “that has been ongoing since the arrest of HDP co-chairs and deputies in November 2016.”
“The AKP government is likely to further intensify its policies of suffocating the HDP and democratic opposition.”
On Wednesday, the Chief Public Prosecutor of Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals filed a lawsuit to the Constitutional Court to disband the HDP party.
Emma Sinclair-Webb, the senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch, told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday that Gergerlioglu's case “provides another example of how Turkey's courts serve their political masters.”
“There is nothing criminal about the tweet he got convicted for: the decision to punish him with a 2-year 6-month sentence guaranteed it couldn't be postponed and that if upheld – as it was – Gergerlioglu would have to spend some time in prison. Because he is an MP, however, he should benefit from parliamentary immunity.”
“To suggest that a tweet containing a mild opinion is a serious crime that threatens the life of the nation and may divide the country is completely outrageous and an appalling misuse of criminal law and violation of Turkey's Constitution,” she added.
“Gergerlioglu is at heart a human rights defender who stands up against injustice and with incredible humanity and conscience tells the stories of the tens of thousands of ordinary people who have been the victims of the Erdogan government over the past five years but deserve dignity and recognition.”
“I see in this move to expel Gergerlioglu from parliament an effort to silence him and stop him holding up the mirror to the government revealing their record of systematic human rights violations,” she concluded.
Since the collapse of the peace process between the Turkish government and the PKK in 2015, some 16,300 HDP members have been detained, with 3,500 of them receiving prison sentences, party officials told Mezopotamya news agency in November 2019.
Last month, another 700 people were detained in Turkey, including members of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, Reuters reported.
Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly