ANKARA: A prominent lawmaker from pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, was in hospital early on Saturday, a day after police arrested him in his house. He was subsequently transferred to prison.
Video footage showing his mistreatment during his arrest by the police, who did not permit him even to put his shoes on, drew an angry response from rights activists.
‘This is a shame on Turkey, I didn’t commit any crime,’ he said before police detained him.
The politician, who is also a physician and a well-known rights defender, claimed that the security forces threatened to punch him and one of them insulted him while he was having chest pains.
His lawyer shared a report documenting the signs of ill-treatment under police custody.
Gergerlioglu, from the country’s third largest party, was recently stripped from his parliamentary status over “terror propaganda” charges on March 17 for sharing a news article advocating peace talks between Ankara and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on Twitter in 2016, two years before he became a lawmaker.
The article is still accessible online, and Gergerlioglu said he was exercising his right to freedom of expression with that tweet.
Gergerlioglu attracted the government’s anger after he repeatedly spoke about human rights abuses and torture allegations in the country, and about the strip searches in the prisons for female inmates.
“What we are seeing with the case of Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu being stripped of his parliamentary seat on the basis of a harmless tweet is a concerted effort to pay him back for having shone a light on the Erdogan government’s grave abuse of the rights of thousands of people, the human stories of injustice and great suffering,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, director of Human Rights Watch Turkey, told Arab News.
On March 31, Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejected an application demanding the annulment of the revocation of Gergerlioglu’s parliamentary status.
According to Sinclair-Webb, the events around Gergerlioglu’s arrest and transfer to prison strongly suggest that elements of the police and the security apparatus also want to punish him.
“Could it be that it’s because of all the work he has done in shining a light on police abuses, on torture in Ankara and so many other places? There seems to have been a concerted effort not to inform his family where he was being taken, as if someone wanted to give the message, ‘We can treat you as we want now’,” she said.
After the medical treatment, Gergerlioglu was transferred to Sincan F-type 2 prison on Saturday evening.
“He will return by becoming stronger,” his son Salih tweeted, claiming that his father was quickly transferred to the prison from the back door of the hospital without having notified them.
Human Rights Watch called for a full investigation into the events around Gergerlioglu’s arrest.
“But those responsible feel they are protected by a government and courts that unlawfully punished Gergerlioglu in the first place,” Sinclair-Webb said,
Sinclair-Webb added: “The treatment of Gergerlioglu during arrest and transfer to prison is part of a broader pattern.
“We see high levels of very rough policing in Turkey today, police violence toward people such as student demonstrators, but in general a security establishment that feels it has gained the upper hand and is not curbed by laws or regulations that it cannot circumvent. The climate of impunity prevails.”
Last month, a top prosecutor applied to the Constitutional Court with an indictment to shut down the HDP, but the indictment was recently sent back to the prosecutor over procedural shortcomings. It is likely to be re-submitted after making required changes.