Court of Cassation upholds prison sentence for HDP deputy

Turkey's Court of Cassation has upheld a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for HDP deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. If the sentence is read out in parliament, the politician will lose his mandate.

Turkey's Court of Cassation has upheld a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for HDP deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. The 55-year-old politician is accused of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization. If the verdict is read out in the Turkish National Assembly, the politician will lose his mandate and thus his parliamentary immunity.

The basis of the charges against Gergerlioğlu was initially a message of peace. The politician, who is actually a doctor by profession and a specialist in lung diseases, became involved with the peace platform in Kocaeli after the peace negotiations with the Kurdish movement were unilaterally ended by the Turkish government in 2015. On the initiative's social media accounts, Gergerlioğlu posted peace messages almost daily, including on Oct. 9, 2016, when he posted a photo showing a posed scene during a 2015 World Day of Peace event: several women can be seen, with two coffins in the foreground. In one, a Turkish soldier, in the other a PKK fighter, who can be identified by corresponding flags on the coffins. Under the picture, Gergerlioğlu wrote: "This war exhausts society. One child joins the army, another joins the PKK, both die. Wouldn't it be better if the two didn't lie next to each other as corpses, but lived as equals, shoulder to shoulder?"

As a result, Gergerlioğlu fell on the radar of right-wing journalists and politicians, who instigated a smear campaign against him. That same week, a case was opened against the doctor, followed by the suspension of his civil servant status, which resulted in his dismissal by emergency decree. In the course of the investigation, more "evidence" against the 55-year-old eventually surfaced: The public prosecutor's office retroactively reviewed Gergerlioğlus's articles for half a year, which he had written for the online newspaper T24 at the time, and included, among other things, a quote ("If the state took one step toward us, peace would come in as little as a month") from a PKK statement in the indictment. Although it was demonstrably not a statement by the politician, it was nevertheless deemed terrorist propaganda. The same applies to a column entitled "Peace for Colombia - Why can't it be done in Turkey?"

If Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu is stripped of his mandate in parliament, he has seven days to appeal to the Constitutional Court. The court must make a decision within two weeks. Just last weekend, another investigation was initiated against the politician in a rush, this time for violating the so-called Turkishness paragraph. The background is criticism of the bombing of a prisoner-of-war camp in the guerrilla area of Gare by the Turkish army.