The son of a former member of the Turkish legislature who was stripped of his parliamentary status in March and subsequently jailed on conviction of dissemination of “terrorist propaganda” was detained with four others on Monday while demanding the former deputy’s release from prison in line with a top court ruling.
Turkey’s Constitutional Court on July 1 ruled that Turkey had violated the rights of Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a former pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker and a prominent human rights activist in his imprisonment. The court ruled that Gergerlioğlu’s right to be elected and engage in political activities as well as his right to liberty and security were violated. Despite the court’s ruling, which required Gergerlioğlu’s immediate release from prison, the former deputy has not been released, prompting his son, Salih, and some HDP officials and rights activists to launch a justice watch in front of Sincan Prison in Ankara on Monday where Gergerlioğlu is jailed.
The police allegedly used force to disperse participants of the justice watch in front of Sincan Prison.
Journalist Büşra Taşkıran tweeted, “They [the police] detained the son of Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. They hit him and ripped his clothes. Artı TV cameraman Nazım was [also] detained. A police officer tried to break my arm.”
— Büşra Taşkıran (@taskiranbusra) July 5, 2021
The detention of Gergerlioğlu’s son while demanding the release of his father attracted widespread criticism.
The HDP made a statement on Twitter, saying: “An attack has been staged as we were about to make a statement in front of Sincan Prison for our deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who has not been released from prison despite a Constitutional Court ruling. Four people including Salih Gergerlioğlu and journalists have been detained. Attacks cannot stop our struggle.”
Exiled Turkish journalist Can Dündar also tweeted, “If a state holds a citizen hostage despite a Constitutional Court ruling, where will you seek your rights? What will you do other than revolt.”
Police also used pepper spray to disperse the journalists covering the incidents and threatened to seize their equipment.
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.
A two-and-a-half-year jail sentence handed down to him on Feb. 21, 2018 was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals on Feb. 19, 2021, and the 55-year-old politician, who has shone a light on controversial topics including torture and prison strip-searches in Turkey’s prisons and detention centers, was taken into custody at his home on April 2 and sent to prison.
In his application to the Constitutional Court, Gergerlioğlu referred to the top court’s recent ruling on the case of Enis Berberoğlu, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The court decided unanimously in January that Berberoğlu’s right to stand for elections and engage in political activities had been violated by the lower courts.
Berberoğlu was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2017 on espionage charges for providing the Cumhuriyet newspaper with a video purporting to show Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucking weapons into Syria.
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 floor of parliament.
The revocation of Gergerlioğlu’s status reduced the HDP’s seats in the 600-member assembly to 55. The parliamentary status of two other HDP lawmakers was removed last year due to convictions against them.
The AKP government accuses the HDP of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies. 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.