Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Turkey not to remove a pro-Kurdish deputy from his seat in parliament. It’s expected that the Turkish government will strip Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu of his parliamentary status on Wednesday and jail him.
Gergerlioglu, a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) representing Kocaeli province in western Turkey, is one of the most outspoken critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government’s record on human rights, HRW said.
Gergerlioglu, a physician and longtime human rights advocate, was found guilty in February 2018 of “spreading terrorism propaganda” on the basis of a social media post.
Last month Turkey’s top appeals court upheld Gergerlioglu’s conviction and sentence of two years and six months in prison.
On March 15, the Speaker of parliament indicated that steps to strip Gergerlioglu of his seat may be imminent, though the lawmaker has filed a Constitutional Court Court challenge to the prosecution.
“I will be at the Plenary Session. They can perhaps take me out of the Plenary Session, but I will wait at the heart of the Parliament, at the heart of the nation’s will. We did not win this election easily,” Gergerlioglu said, according to a report by Turkish news agency Bianet.
“I will wait at the Plenary Session to the end, I will not leave it either. The nation sent me here; it will mean imprisoning 90 thousand people along with me,” he added.
Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that “any move to strip Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu of his parliamentary seat as a prelude to jailing him would look like a reprisal by the Erdogan government for his brave and vocal stance in support of thousands of victims of human rights violations.”
“A decision of the Constitutional Court is pending on his case and in the meantime the government would do better to seriously address the human rights concerns raised by Gergerlioğlu and let him carry on his legitimate parliamentary work as an elected deputy,” he added.
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.