Turkish prison confiscated sea shell, flower mailed to Gergerlioğlu

Former HDP deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said that prison authorities confiscated many items sent to him, including a sea shell and flowers, as part of the authorities' attempt to demoralize prisoners.

Serkan Alan / DUVAR

Former Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu suffered from numerous human rights violations during his 96-day stay in Sincan Prison, including the confiscation of a sea shell that one of his supporters mailed him, he said. 

Gergerlioğlu's membership to parliament was dropped over a social media post, although the Constitutional Court recently ruled that the deputy's right to election and political activity was violated alongside the right to personal freedom and safety.  

Gergerlioğlu's adamant defense of human rights violations and illegal prosecution gained him a widespread group of supporters who sent him a range of mail during his time in prison, including a sea shell.

"Someone sent me a sea shell so I could 'listen to the sound of the waves.' They confiscated it. Someone sent a dried flower, they took it. Does that make any sense to you?" Gergerlioğlu told Duvar. 

The prison administration's goal was to break down inmates' morale, Gergerlioğlu noted, adding that he felt demoralized when a set of prayer beads from his family was prevented from being delivered. 

"I had to turn in an official grievance saying 'give back my sea shell.' There are notices like that out there that I wrote," the deputy said laughing. 

Gergerlioğlu continued to work as a human rights defender during his time in prison, he said, adding that he tried to report other inmates' problems to the media and to his party during his stay in the prison. 

"[Turkish prisons] are completely inhumane. It's unbecoming of humanity. It's a pile of concrete and iron, the sunlight doesn't even reach some points," Gergerlioğlu said. 

Gergerlioğlu received letters from all around the world, including a 13-year-old girl in India who told him that she was also working as a human rights defender at her age. 

"A woman from Houston wrote me a letter that really improved my spirits. I received letters from all over the country, from prisons, from 70-year-old mothers and 20-year-old kids alike," Gergerlioğlu said. 

The deputy read 33 books in his 96-day stay at the prison, he said, adding that he kept a positive mindset and lifestyle in protest of the administration's crackdown.

"I went in with my head held high, and I came out with my head held high," Gergerlioğlu said. "It's impossible to not get depressed in there, that's my professional opinion as a physician. It's inhumane, but I managed to come out rejuvenated." 

'I was prepared for all outcomes'

Gergerlioğlu was prepared for all outcomes of his petition with the Constitutional Court, he said, adding that he foresaw a unanimous decision in his favor "if the law is still enforced in the country."

The top court ruled 15 to null in favor of Gergerlioğlu, noting that his rights had been violated with the dismissal of his membership to parliament and his detention.

The top court ruling noted that "associating the defendant with an illegal organization" because he mentioned the organization dubbed a terrorist entity was a violation of his freedom of expression. 

Deeming the mention of the terrorist organization to be terrorist propaganda would disable the media's function of reporting, the ruling said, adding that the information shared by the former deputy was already available to the public.