Top Turkish court convicts pro-Kurdish lawmaker for sharing article with PKK quote

Turkey’s Court of Cassation has approved a two year, six month prison sentence issued to lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu on charges of terrorist propaganda on Thursday.

Pro-Kurdish left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Gergerlioğlu told Mezopotamya Agency that the court’s decision was politically-motivated.

“The current issue is that I shared a news article, which can still be viewed, by the way,” Gergerlioğlu told Mezopotamya.

The Court of Cassation’s ruling said the following on the article in question, according to news website Duvar:

“It has been determined that the suspect has shared a link to a news article that included a statement by the PKK armed terrorist organisation, and in doing so aimed to embrace the statement, increase public sympathy for the organisation and garner up active support for it.”

Gergerlioğlu said the article cited Murat Karayılan, the second highest ranking member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as saying the PKK was ready to take steps for peace, if the rest of the country was.

“I shared this article and said if this call was heeded, a path would open for peace. Then they sued me,” Gergerlioğlu said. “There are no lawsuits against T24 which published the article, by the way. But I was sentenced for terrorist propaganda.”

Gergerlioğlu had been dismissed from his position as a doctor via a presidential decree in 2018, as part of the purge that saw tens of thousands of public servants dismissed from their jobs over allegations of ties to the Gülen movement.

Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen and his followers are accused of having orchestrated the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, and of infiltrating key state institutions before that. Some 150,000 people have been dismissed from their public service jobs, with tens of thousands of others arrested in the two-year-long state of emergency period declared after the attempt.

Before he was elected to parliament for the HDP, Gergerlioğlu served as the chairman of the human rights organisation Mazlum-Der, and worked as a journalist for various publications while maintaining his medical practice.

The deputy said his recent focus on mistreatment and torture in Turkey’s prisons and police stations made him into a target.

“Me talking about strip searches, abductions, and torture disturbed some people, I guess,” Gergerlioğlu said. “My latest comments on the Kurdish issue, in favour of peace, where I said there was no other way out but peace accelerated the process I believe.”

Gergerlioğlu and another HDP deputy, Hüda Kaya, faced a new investigation this week over their social media posts on the death of 13 Turkish servicemen in northern Iraq during a military operation by the Turkish army.

“May Allah have mercy. I am sorrowed, I wish we could have seen a response to our efforts for peace and a solution on these lands,” Gergerlioğlu said in a tweet on Sunday. “The matter should have been to keep people alive no matter who they were. There is no solution through death, we must keep our people alive.”

According to Turkish government officials, the PKK executed 13 men, 12 of whom were Turkish policemen, soldiers and intelligence officers, in a cave in northern Iraq’s Gara region. The nationality or identity of the thirteenth man is yet to be released publicly. Meanwhile, the PKK maintains that the men were prisoners of war who had been captured at various times in the last six years, and lost their lives in a Turkish airstrike.

During a press event on Thursday, Gergerlioğlu said the Turkish army’s Gara operation had failed, and called on both Turkey and the PKK to lay down arms. Gergerlioğlu said:

“We were made into a scapegoat for sharing our sorrow and saying we wished they hadn’t been killed. As if we were culpable for the deaths, they pushed on us threats and investigations. Why? I said something that everybody else joined in saying a few days later. That there was a failure. These men could have not died. They could have been saved. That is what I said.”

Gergerlioğlu and Kaya had both been in contact with the families of the 13 men before, as the families visited all parties in parliament to petition for the wellbeing of their children.

“To date, 355 prisoners had been rescued and brought back.  This is the first time the abductees were killed,” the deputy continued. “Don’t we have a right to question this? I do, no matter what anybody says. Nobody can silence us.”

Gergerlioğlu may lose his status as a member of parliament if the finalised ruling is read out loud in a parliamentary session, similar to the revocation of the statuses for two HDP deputies in June last year, along with another deputy from the centre-left main opposition party.