We are appalled to hear the recent news concerning the judgment of the Turkish Court of Cassation upholding the prison sentence against Member of Parliament (HDP) and human rights defender Mr. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. The ruling concerns an imposition of 30 months imprisonment sentence on account of “disseminating terrorist propaganda”. It is obvious that this judgment constitutes yet another arbitrary interference with his right to freedom of expression and a breach of fair trial principles and parliamentary immunities.
The verdict relies on a retweet by Mr. Gergerlioğlu of a media article which was published and is actually still accessible at the Turkish T24 news portal. It is a travesty of justice that a media report, which itself has not been considered by the Turkish judiciary as “terrorist propaganda”, has been deemed as evidence of the crime of “disseminating terrorist propaganda”, set to punish an MP and a mindful human rights defender. Declaring dissidents as terrorists has long been a method used by the current Turkish government to silence any critical voices in the country.
Mr. Gergerlioğlu has dedicated his life to the advocacy of human rights. He has always acted in solidarity with victims of human rights violations and opposed all persecutions irrespective of the identity or ideology of the victims. His tireless efforts in defending human rights are greatly appreciated both in Turkey and abroad. He has exposed many cases of human rights violations including torture, enforced disappearance, strip-search by security officers, and countless incidents of deprivation of rights in prisons; which would otherwise be covered up. As instituDE members, we are particularly grateful for his prompt action to bring the torture of our colleagues, former diplomats, in the Ankara Police Headquarters in 2019 to public’s attention. In most of these cases, his earnest efforts have helped halt the breaches and therefore sufferings.
It is no secret that the AKP government has been considering him as an obstacle to covering up its grave human rights violations in the last years. Turkish government officials have recently begun to attack him in an even harsher manner. Troubled by his activism particularly in recently revealing the widespread strip searches in detention, which gave way to innumerable women countrywide from all walks of life coming forward with their own accounts of having been strip searched, the Interior Minister bluntly instructed the judiciary to take action against Mr. Gergerlioğlu. Group Deputy Chair of the ruling AKP Özlem Zengin accused him of “terrorising” the parliament. Therefore, the recent verdict is only the final block of an in-the-works campaign by the Turkish government and a new testimony to how it is using the judiciary as a weapon to silence the remaining critical voices and human rights defenders in the country.
Mr. Gergerlioğlu represents conscience in our time, and he is absolutely innocent in this case.
We call upon the international community to show solidarity with him and urge the Turkish government to stop and refrain from further human rights violations.