Turkish court upholds jail sentence for pro-Kurdish lawmaker 

Turkish court upholds jail sentence for pro-Kurdish lawmaker 
Turkey’s Court of Appeal has upheld a prison sentence for pro-Kurdish lawmaker and activist Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu. (@gergerlioglueng)
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Updated 20 February 2021

Turkish court upholds jail sentence for pro-Kurdish lawmaker 

Turkish court upholds jail sentence for pro-Kurdish lawmaker 
  • A two-and-a-half-year jail term is being sought for Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu
  • Gergerlioglu is a deputy in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which the government accuses of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party

ANKARA: Turkey’s Court of Appeal has upheld a prison sentence for a pro-Kurdish lawmaker and activist.
A two-and-a-half-year jail term is being sought for Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, who is also a member of a parliamentary commission responsible for monitoring human rights violations and has consistently drawn attention to allegations of rights abuses. 
“We are with him until the end,” his supporters tweeted.
Gergerlioglu is a deputy in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which the government accuses of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
He was convicted on charges of “making terrorist propaganda” for retweeting a T24 news story about the Kurdish conflict and the collapse of the peace process. 
His conviction over a social media post had the “hallmark of an attempt to silence him,” Amnesty International’s Turkey campaigner Milena Buyum told Arab News.
“The extent of the dissenting opinion of the appeal court judge confirms this concern,” she added. “No one should be subjected to judicial harassment for highlighting allegations of human rights violations.”
Gergerlioglu said last December that female suspects and detainees had been subjected to humiliating strip searches by police in provinces across Turkey. 
While his allegations were supported by thousands of prisoners who told dissident media outlets about their experiences of systematic sexual violence at the hands of the police, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu denied them and accused Gergerlioglu of being a “terrorist.”
The lawmaker is also a doctor, but was dismissed from the profession by presidential decree.
“After my dad was dismissed from his medical profession a couple of years ago, he was punched in the middle of the street by someone who claimed that my dad was a terrorist,” Gergerlioglu’s son Salih told Arab News. “I remember very well the big bruise on his face. He was so calm but I wasn’t. He explains to everyone that he was on the right track.”
The ruling government had “instrumentalized statehood for consolidating its power” rather than reaching out to people in need, he said, and had prioritized the party over society by criminalizing dissident people. “We need to communicate with every vulnerable segment of society, be it Armenians or Kurds, in order to heal these fault lines in society. It is a must. Struggling for a cause starts with knowing the land you live in. Thanks to my dad, I have been immersed in the struggle for defending human rights from my childhood. I owe him a lot.”
Salih founded the Movement of the Others with friends who felt alienated in Turkish society because of reasons connected to their identities.
“This society will change one day,” he added, “and this transformation will be realized with the cooperation and mutual understanding between those who are oppressed. Whatever they do, they cannot silence my dad, who keeps telling me to gauge my justness all the time with fairness and not to give up my cause if I am right.”
Prosecutors have prepared summaries of proceedings against nine HDP lawmakers over investigations into 2014’s Kobani protests. They have been submitted to the Justice Ministry and the lawmakers will go before a court if they are stripped of their parliamentary immunity.


Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor

Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor
Updated 20 October 2021

Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor

Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor
  • It was not initially known what caused the blast

BEIRUT: Six members of a pro-government militia were killed Wednesday in an arms depot blast in the central Syrian province of Hama, a war monitor reported.
Seven other members of the National Defense Forces militia were wounded in the blast, the cause of which remains largely unclear, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents

Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents
Updated 20 October 2021

Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents

Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents
  • This could potentially end a months-long standoff with opposition

KUWAIT: Kuwait’s ruling emir on Wednesday paved the way for an amnesty pardoning dissidents that has been a major condition of opposition lawmakers to end a months-long standoff with the appointed government that has paralyzed legislative work.
Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah tasked the parliament speaker, the prime minister and the head of the supreme judicial council to recommend the conditions and terms of the amnesty ahead of it being issued by decree, Sheikh Nawaf’s office said.


Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians

Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians
Updated 20 October 2021

Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians

Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians
  • Among the casualties were several school children

AMMAN: At least 11 civilians died on Wednesday in a Syrian army shelling of residential areas of rebel-held Ariha city, witnesses and rescue workers said.
The shelling from Syrian army outposts, which came shortly after a roadside bomb killed at least 13 military personnel in Damascus, fell on residential areas in the city in Idlib province.
Among the casualties were several school children, witnesses and medical workers in the opposition enclave said.


13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media

13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media
Updated 20 October 2021

13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media

13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media
  • Images released by SANA showed a burning bus

DAMASCUS: A bomb attack on an army bus in Damascus killed at least 13 people Wednesday in the bloodiest such attack in years, the SANA state news agency reported.
“A terrorist bombing using two explosive devices targeted a passing bus” on a key bridge in the capital, the news agency said, reporting an initial casualty toll of 13 dead and three wounded.
Images released by SANA showed a burning bus and what it said was a bomb squad defusing a third device that had been planted in the same area.
Damascus had been mostly spared such violence in recent years, especially since troops and allied militia retook the last significant rebel bastion near the capital in 2018.


Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists
Updated 20 October 2021

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists
  • Civil society members stage a sit-in outside the Justice Palace to show ‘solidarity with the judiciary’

BEIRUT: Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the August 2020 port explosion, resumed investigations on Tuesday after being notified by the Lebanese Civil Court of Cassation of its second decision to reject the request submitted by the defendant in the case of MP Ali Hassan Khalil.

Normal service resumed at the Justice Palace in Beirut after a long vacation. The Lebanese army guarding roads leading to the palace and Ain Remaneh, which was the arena of bloody events on Thursday, over protests to dismiss Bitar from the case. The repercussions of these events have affected the political scene, its parties and the people.

Civil society activists under the auspices of the “Lebanese Opposition Front” staged a sit-in outside the Justice Palace to show “solidarity with the Judiciary carrying out its national duties and support for Judge Bitar to face the threats.”

Speaking on behalf of the protestors, activist Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad said: “A free and sovereign state cannot exist without a legitimate authority, judiciary and justice.”

Abdel Samad urged “the defendants to appear before Judge Bitar, because the innocent normally show up and defend themselves instead of resorting to threats.”

“We have reached this low point today because of a ruling elite allied with the Hezbollah statelet, protected by illegal arms.

“They want to dismiss Judge Bitar in all arbitrary ways and threats because he has come so close to the truth after they managed to dismiss the former judge, hiding behind their immunities because they know they are involved in the crime.”

Abdel Samad claimed that “those making threats are involved in the crime.”

Regarding the Tayouneh events that took place last week, he said: “They took to the streets to demonstrate peacefully, as they claimed, but they almost got us into a new civil war as a result of the hatred and conspiracies against Lebanon.”

Lawyer May Al-Khansa, known for her affiliation with Hezbollah, submitted a report at the Lebanese Civil Court of Cassation against the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, Judge Bitar and “all those who appear in the investigation to be involved, accomplices or partners in crimes of terrorism and terrorism funding, undermining the state’s authority, inciting a strife, and other crimes against the law and the Lebanese Constitution.”

Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday night waged an unprecedented campaign of accusations and incitement against the Lebanese Forces party and its leader.    

Nasrallah accused them of being “the biggest threat for the presence of Christians in Lebanon” and said they were “forming alliances with Daesh.”

In a clear threat to Geagea and his party, Nasrallah bragged in his speech of having “100,000 trained fighters,” calling on Christians to “stand against this murderer.”

Nasrallah accused Bitar of “carrying out a foreign agenda targeting Hezbollah in the Beirut port crime” and of “being supported by embassies and authorities, turning him into a dictator.”

During the parliamentary session on Tuesday, no contact was made between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces. However, a handshake was spotted between the Lebanese Forces’ MP Pierre Abu Assi and the Amal Movement’s MP Hani Kobeissi.

Minister of Culture Mohammed Mortada, who represents Hezbollah, said “Hezbollah’s ministers will attend the ministerial session if Prime Minister Najib Mikati calls for one, but the justice minister and the judiciary must find a solution to the issue of lack of trust in Bitar.”

Several calls were made on Monday night between different political groups to prevent escalation and calm the situation.

Efforts are being made to reach a settlement that allows Bitar to keep his position and for defendants in the Beirut port case — who are former ministers and MPs — to be referred to the Supreme Judicial Council for prosecution.

Elsewhere, parliament dropped the proposal of a women’s quota ensuring female participation through  a minimum of 26 seats.

It passed a move to allow expats to vote for the 128 MPs and dropped the decision to allocate six additional seats representing them.

The parliament’s decision angered Gebran Bassil, who heads the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc. Following the parliamentary session, Bassil referred to “a political game in the matter of expats’ right to vote, which we will not allow to happen.”