Turkey’s Court of Cassation on Friday upheld the two-and-a-half-year prison sentence given to Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist and MP belonging to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.”
In 2016, Gergerlioğlu raised alarm in parliament and on social media platforms about women being subjected to unlawful strip searches by the Uşak Police for “security reasons.” He was later accused by several members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Uşak Police of being involved in terrorist activities. Gergerlioğlu was initially sentenced by the Kocaeli 2nd High Criminal Court in February 2018, and the decision was subsequently affirmed by the 3rd Criminal Department of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice on appeal. Following this, an appeal was made before the Court of Cassation.
Gergerlioğlu argued that MPs receive immunity from arbitrary and unfounded criminal prosecutions and arrests under the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Turkish Constitution. The court ruled that the investigation against Gergerlioğlu began before he was elected as a deputy, and as a result immunity from prosecution cannot be afforded in the current case.
The court said:
It was understood that in the post of the accused, on 20 August 2016, the armed photograph of the members of the organization was used visually and contained statements that justified and encouraged the violent and violent actions of the organization. The aim is to increase the political or social effectiveness of the organization, to make its voice heard by the masses, to create the opinion that the organization is an impossible power and that it can achieve its purpose, to increase the sympathy of the people to the organization and to ensure their active support. determined. Considering these issues, there was no inaccuracy in the decision to disregard the defense of the defendant and to punish him. [translated]
Several human rights organizations and civil society groups, including the International Observatory of Human Rights, wrote to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to express concerns about Gergerlioğlu’s treatment. They called upon the authorities “to investigate and stop all threats directed by public officials, politicians and prosecutors at Mr. Gergerlioğlu and other human rights defenders.”