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Turkey: Court rules that rights of opposition MP were violated

Ruling means left-wing MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu could be released from jail after months of incarceration
Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, an HDP MP who was expelled from parliament, holds a press conference on 31 March 2021 at the party's headquarters in Ankara (AFP)

Turkey's Constitutional Court has ruled that the rights of a leading opposition MP and human rights campaigner were violated, potentially leading to his release from prison after months of incarceration.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, an MP for the left-wing, pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP), was detained in March 2021 after having his parliamentary immunity stripped from him.

He had originally been sentenced to two and a half years in jail in February 2018 after he shared an article online in which the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) called for the state to renew a peace process with the group.

In March, the Turkish parliament revoked his seat and immunity from prosecution after a court upheld his conviction. However, the new ruling from Turkey's top court means he could soon be free, according to his son.

"The Constitutional Court ruled that the rights of my father were violated. My father is being released," tweeted Salih Gergerlioglu. "The decision was taken unanimously."

Turkish media said the MP's personal rights and personal security had been violated, as well as his right to be elected and engaged in political activity.

Human rights campaigner

Gergerlioglu, who trained as a medical doctor, developed a reputation as a campaigner for the rights of political prisoners and other human rights causes in Turkey.

He was one of the founders of the campaign for women to be allowed to wear headscarves in public buildings, and called for Turkey to take responsibility for the Armenian genocide.

Speaking to Middle East Eye in June 2020, he warned that the conditions for political prisoners in Turkey's jails had become increasingly dangerous as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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"Political prisoners have been almost left to die, as if designated as prey. And this led to Covid-19 cases being observed in them," he said.

"If these individuals had been fairly tried, they would never have gotten infected with coronavirus in the first place, and in some cases, not have died."

He was first elected to parliament for the HDP in 2018, around a year after he was dismissed from his post in the public sector as a doctor by an emergency decree issued following the July 2016 coup attempt.

The ruling comes as the HDP - the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament - faces closure after the Constitutional Court put the party on trial last month over its alleged links to the PKK.

Fighting between the PKK and the Turkish state has been ongoing since 1984 and has seen more than 40,000 deaths and accusations of human rights abuses on all sides.

Though the HDP shares political affinity with PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan, it denies links between the two. 

Despite this, the party has faced a brutal crackdown since 2016, with scores of local mayors and politicians arrested as well as a MPs and leaders, including former co-chair Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.