HDP MP stripped of Turkish parliamentary status

Turkish parliament on Wednesday stripped pro-Kurdish lawmaker Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu of his parliamentary status, weeks after a court upheld a conviction over spreading terrorist propaganda for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy.

The summary of proceedings read in parliament to mark the stripping of Gergerlioglu’s MP status was met with protest from fellow HDP lawmakers.

HDP deputy Filiz Kerestecioglu streamed the protests live on her Twitter account.

The lawmaker and human rights defender said he did not recognize the decision, which he called a “politically motivated” one that “violates the constitution”.

“We (the HDP) do not recognize this decision,” Gergeroglu said in parliament. “I only shared a message of peace.”

Turkey’s Court of Cassation last month approved a two and a half year prison sentence issued to Gergerlioglu on charges of terrorist propaganda. The lawmaker’s sentence pertains to a news article he shared on social media that included a statement by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for Kurdish autonomy for almost 40 years.

HDP lawmaker Zeliha Gulum shared another video from parliament of the party’s lawmakers chanting, “rights, law and justice” as they jeered the announcement.

Gergerlioglu took to Twitter to reiterate that he would resist parliament. “The will of the nation cannot be trampled,” he said. “It is not a crime to demand peace.”

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of links to the PKK, a claim the party denies. Ankara has detained hundreds of party members while ousting mayors from over 50 HDP municipalities since 2019.

The human rights activist remained in parliament later on Wednesday, despite the decision, vowing that he would not bow to the revoking of his status as lawmaker.

''I am a lawmaker of my party and I am not going anywhere,'' he said in a defiant address as he flashed a peace sign.

Meanwhile, HDP lawmakers joined the politician for a sit-in protest at the general assembly, Diken news site reported, holding up signs in support of Gergerlioglu.

HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar issued a statement, calling the move a new step in a coup against the pro-Kurdish party.

''There is no law, no constitution, but there are lawmakers of the people who are resisting!’’ Sancar said. ''Let nobody have any doubts that we will continue to stand tall in the face of these attacks.’’

Later on Wednesday, opposition lawmakers expressed their condemnation of the unseating of Gergerlioglu.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) group deputy chair Ozgur Ozel called the move “lawless”.

“It is unacceptable for the legislative body to be part of this lawlessness once again,” Ozel said on Twitter, while referring to the case of Enis Berberoglu, a former CHP deputy who was stripped of his parliamentary seat and arrested in June.

CHP Istanbul chair Canan Kaftancioglu said Wednesday marked an ordinary day for the ruling AKP, in an apparent reference to the party’s usual violation of the law.

“There will come a day when this nation will deliberate on you,” she said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, CHP lawmakers Ibrahim Kaboglu and Suleyman Bulbul visited with the HDP lawmakers protesting in parliament, T24 news site said.

The leader of the AKP breakaway Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), Ali Babacan, called HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar to express his regret over the development, according to T24.

“We are with you,” it cited Babacan as telling Sancar over the phone. “We strongly condemn this unjust decision.”

Former prime minister and opposition Future Party leader Ahmet Davutoglu took to Twitter to blast the government over the development.

“Shutting down political parties, taking away the rights of elected lawmakers does not open the way for Turkey, it ruins social peace,” he said.

Davutoglu also said the government, which announced plans for working on a new constitution, was ironically looking to drag Turkey back into the political “vortex” of the 1990s.

“We will defend democracy and politics until the end,” the former Erdogan ally said.

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