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HDP lawmaker belatedly receives prestigious human rights award

Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) former member of parliament Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu (R) gestures as he speaks during a press conference after being released from the Sincan Prison, in Ankara, on July 6, 2021. A Turkish court on July 6, 2021 ordered the release of a pro-Kurdish opposition politician who had been in prison since April on terror-related charges, local media and his family said. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, an outspoken rights defender from the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), was handed a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in April for spreading "terrorist propaganda" online over a post he shared in 2016 before he was elected an MP. Adem ALTAN / AFP

Human rights defender and lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu has received the 19th Ayşe Nur Zarakolu Freedom of Thought and Expression Award after a delay because he was previously in prison, the Kronos news website reported.

When the winners of the award, given by Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD), were announced in June, Gergerlioğlu was in prison, serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence handed down to him in 2018 on charges of disseminating “terrorist” propaganda in a 2016 social media post in which he commented on a story that reported on outlawed Kurdish militants calling on the Turkish state to take a step towards peace.

Gergerlioğlu was stripped of his status in parliament on March 17 and taken into custody at his home on April 2 and sent to prison. He was released following a decision from Turkey’s Constitutional Court in early July which ruled that Gergerlioğlu’s right to stand for election and engage in political activities as well as his right to liberty and security had been violated with his imprisonment.

When the winners of the award were announced, Gergerlioğlu’s award was delivered to HDP lawmaker Musa Piroğlu on his behalf.

Attending an event titled “Democracy and Human Rights” held on Sunday by the İHD’s Siirt branch on the anniversary of a 1980 military coup, Gergerlioğlu finally accepted the award from İHD Co-Chair Eren Keskin.

“I am receiving the Ayşe Nur Zarakolu Freedom of Thought Award from İHD Co-Chair Eren Keskin in Siirt,” Gergerlioğlu tweeted.

“Gergerlioğlu has been relentless in pursuing the fight for rights. I believe the award is well earned,” Keskin said.

“It is a great honor to receive this award from the İHD, a civil society organization that has paid a great price for human rights advocacy,” Gergerlioğlu said.

The İHD has been giving the award to human rights defenders since 2002 in memory of Ayşe Nur Zarakolu, a prominent human rights activist who died of cancer in 2002. Zarakolu was one of the founders and executives of the İHD and made significant contributions to the promotion of the freedom of thought and expression in particular, and human rights in general in Turkey.

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