Turkish opposition, leading MEPs condemn expulsion of HDP MP Gergerlioğlu from parliament

Several Turkish opposition politicians as well as leading MEPs on EU-Turkey relations have voiced solidarity with HDP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu after he was stripped of his parliamentary status on March 17. They have said that the move against Gergerlioğlu was disrespectful against the national will and called on the Turkish Constitutional Court to end this “unlawfulness” as soon as possible.

Gergerlioğlu and other HDP lawmakers hold a protest after the Turkish parliament stripped him of his MP status on March 17.

Duvar English

Turkish opposition politicians and leading MEPs on EU-Turkey relations have slammed the move to strip Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his parliamentary status, saying the move violates the requirements of a democratic society.

The Turkish parliament on March 17 stripped Gergerlioğlu of his parliamentary status. The move came after the appeals court upheld his conviction over “spreading terrorism propaganda.” The prominent human rights defender was found guilty for sharing on Twitter a link to a news article published in online news portal T24.

The HDP said that main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğolu had phoned HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar and slammed the move against Gergerlioğlu.

"The developments once again have shown that there is no democracy in the country," Kılıçdaroğlu reportedly said. 

CHP group deputy chair Engin Özkoç deemed the expulsion of Gergerlioğlu from parliament “unlawful,” saying: “We have seen this play before.”

CHP group deputy chair Özgür Özel said that he finds it unacceptable for the government to turn the parliament into an “instrument” to carry out its political agenda.

“The Turkish parliament speaker's office reiterates the mistake it has made in the decision of Enis Berberoğlu,” Özel said, in reference to the stripping of CHP MP Berberoğlu's parliamentary status last year after a conviction.

Meanwhile, CHP MPs İbrahim Kaboğlu ve Süleyman Bülbül voiced solidarity with protesting HDP lawmakers in parliament after the latter launched a sit-in demonstration in the assembly hall. Kaboğlu and Bülbül sat at the seats allocated for HDP lawmakers in a show of support.

Former Prime Minister and Future Party chair Ahmet Davutoğlu said that the closure of parties and stripping MPs of their status “would damage social peace” and that his party will “defend democracy and politics until the end.”

“Those who put 2053 objective, those who speak of a new Constitution want to pull Turkey into the vortex of 1990s,” Davutoğlu tweeted, in a reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's vision of 2053 for the country as well as his call to draft a new Constitution.

Future Party spokesperson Serkan Özcan said that although the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) boasts about promised reforms, it locks up a lawmaker for just retweeting a news link.

“The rulership, which always talks about reforms, strips Gergerlioğlu's parliamentary status for retweeting a piece of news which has been published everywhere. We are back to 1990s, the old Turkey. Under the rulership of Erdoğan, who was jailed for reciting a poem, a lawmaker gets jailed for retweeting a piece of news,” Özcan tweeted.

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) leader Ali Babacan said that the stripping of MPs of their status is “against the requirements of democratic social order.”

“Parliament is the roof where different opinions are expressed and negotiated under the framework of lawmakers' immunities,” Babacan tweeted.

The HDP issued a statement saying that Babacan had called HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar and strongly condemned the move against Gergerlioğlu. “Our friend, deputy Mustafa Yeneroğlu is in parliament and we also stand by you. We strongly condemn this unjust decision,” Babacan reportedly told Sancar.

Meanwhile, Yeneroğlu also released a statement on Twitter saying the expulsion of Gergerlioğlu from parliament was against the Constitution and parliament “had unfortunately taken a part in this unlawfulness.”

“This stance is disrespectful against the national will. The Constitutional Court must end this unlawfulness as soon as possible,” he said.

Felicity Party spokesperson Birol Aydın said that the stripping of Gergerlioğlu of his parliamentary status will “leave a black mark on our political history.”

“This decision is the manifestation of an understanding which wants to push legitimate political area to other grounds in a stubborn and insistent way. We do not approve of this decision which weakens the Turkish parliament, completely disregards national sovereignty and the rule of law,” Aydın tweeted.

The European Parliament Standing Rapporteur for Turkey Nacho Sánchez Amor and the Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee Sergey Lagodinsky have also issued a statement in reaction to Gergeroğlu's expulsion from the parliament. 

"His case is another crude example of the dire situation of freedom of speech in the country, the abuse of anti-terror measures to silence any critical voice and the particular crackdown on opposition, especially the HDP party, in an attempt to limit pluralism and political debate," the leading MEPs said in their statement. 

They said the fact that the move against Gerlioğlu came only two weeks after Erdoğan presented a new Human Rights Action Plan "is a painful 'reality check.'"

"Actions speak louder than words, and in this case, they speak particularly louder than any promise of legal reforms and any speech towards the EU full of good intentions," they said. 

Another MEP, former Turkey rapporteur of the European Parliament Kati Piri, described the move against Gergerlioğlu as "illegal, immoral and a cowardly act." 

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.

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.

The HDP was the third-largest party in parliament after the June 24, 2018 elections with 67 seats. Erkan Baş and Barış Atay resigned from the party and joined the Workers' Party (TİP), Selçuk Mızraklı, Ayhan Bilgen and Bedia Özgökçe were elected mayors in the March 31, 2019 local elections, Leyla Güven and Musa Farisoğulları were stripped of their statuses as members of parliament, Tuma Çelik was expelled, Mensur Işık was dismissed and Ahmet Şık resigned.