Turkey strips pro-Kurdish legislator of seat in parliament


ANKARA, Turkey — In the latest crackdown on Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party, Turkey on Wednesday stripped a prominent legislator of his parliamentary seat following his conviction over a 2016 social media post.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a human rights advocate and lawmaker from the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, was convicted over a social media post which the courts deemed to be terrorist propaganda. An appeals court decision confirming the conviction was read in parliament, leading to his expulsion from parliament.

An outspoken critic of the human rights record of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, Gergerlioglu maintains that the trial against him was politically-motivated and aimed to silence him. He says he was unjustly stripped of his seat before the Constitutional Court had reviewed his case and has vowed not to leave parliament until the Turkey’s highest court issues its decision.

The government accuses the HDP — the third largest party in Turkey’s parliament — of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Dozens of elected HDP lawmakers and mayors, including former co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, as well as thousands of members have been arrested in a crackdown on the party. Erdogan’s nationalist ally recently called for the party to be closed down.

The move against Gergerlioglu, a one-time Erdogan supporter who joined the HDP out of disillusionment with the Turkish leader’s increasingly authoritarian style of government, came weeks after Erdogan pledged a series of human rights reforms.

Gergerlioglu, the former head of an Islamist human rights association, has exposed several human rights violations in Turkey, including alleged illegal strip-searches of detainees by police.

He was convicted in 2018 and sentenced to two years and six months in prison for “spreading terrorist propaganda” after he retweeted a news article about a call for peace with the PKK and commented that its jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan, should be involved. Last month, an appeals court confirmed his conviction.

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