Turkish police detained pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu from his party's headquarters in parliament early on March 21, where he had been staying for four nights to protest the stripping of his MP status on terrorism charges. He was released at around 1 p.m. after giving his testimony.
The HDP said he was in pajamas and slippers when police seized him just before his morning prayers in Ankara. He was not allowed to change his clothes, finish his prayer and was not given a mask. HDP deputy Filiz Kerestecioğlu shared footage of the incident.
TBMM'de Adalet Nöbetini sürdüren milletvekilimiz Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, polis tarafından gözaltına alınıyor.— HDP (@HDPgenelmerkezi) March 21, 2021
Gergerlioğlu's status as a member of parliament was revoked on March 17 and he had refused to leave the building ever since. His detention was carried out as part of a fresh probe launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office for "not leaving parliament, acting as if he is still a deputy, making press statements on social media and staying in a public building although he has no right to."
The prosecutor claimed that Gergerlioğlu chanted slogans in support of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), but the HDP quickly shared a video to refute the allegations.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu'nun Genel Kurul'dan ayrılıp grup salonunda nöbete başlama anının görüntüleri bunlar... Savcının yalanı bir saat bile sürmedi. Yazık ki Meclis Başkanı da açıklamasında aynı yalanı referans göstermiş! #HalkınVekiliGözaltında pic.twitter.com/ZzQSdIPwQK— HDP (@HDPgenelmerkezi) March 21, 2021
The move to detain a deputy inside parliament premises came after far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli's call on the issue.
"This filthy individual needs to be removed from parliament urgently. Compromise brings surrender," Bahçeli said on March 20, as he called Gergerlioğlu "a separatist" engaging in an "illegal and illegitimate act" by staying in parliament.
TBMM’nin Muhterem Başkanı’nı bu vesileyle göreve davet ediyorum: Yer yatağı derhal kaldırılmalı, milletvekilliği düşürülen kirli şahıs Gazi Meclis’ten behemehâl çıkarılmalıdır. Taviz, teslimiyeti getirir. Teslimiyet ise boyun eğmedir. Buna da hiç kimsenin hakkı yoktur.— Devlet Bahçeli (@dbdevletbahceli) March 20, 2021
Upon being released, Gergerlioğlu shared a picture with his son.
"Where were we?" he asked with the victory sign emoji.
On August 20, 2016, almost two years before he became a member of parliament, Gergerlioğlu tweeted and commented on a news story briefly reporting that the leadership of the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in northern Iraq had called on the Turkish state to take a step towards peace. The news story also carried a lengthy response to the PKK call by Bülent Arınç, then the speaker of the parliament and former deputy prime minister.
Gergerlioğlu, a physician and longtime human rights advocate, was found guilty in February 2018 of “spreading terrorism propaganda” on the basis of the social media post.
Turkey’s top appeals court upheld the conviction and sentence of two years and six months in prison on Feb. 19. On March 15, the Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop had indicated that steps to strip Gergerlioğlu of his seat may be imminent, though Gergerlioğlu has filed a Constitutional Court challenge to the prosecution against him.
He will serve a prison sentence of one year and 10 months on the said charge.
In recent weeks Gergerlioğlu has raised the issue of routinely reported strip searches of women taken into custody as a cruel and degrading practice. His work to highlight the issue has received wide coverage in the Turkish media but has been met with full or partial denials by the prison authorities and members of parliament from the ruling coalition.
HDP lawmakers are often accused of having links to the PKK. A number of its deputies were stripped of their statuses in the past and scores of HDP members, including former lawmakers, are currently imprisoned.