Press release March 17, 2021
Turkey: Cease Legal Attacks on HDP and Its Representatives
Persecution of the pro-Kurdish opposition party constitutes an assault on the foundations of Turkish democracy.
In response to the removal of opposition lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu from his parliament seat and the launch of a legal case aimed at banning his Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Freedom House issued the following statement:
“For six years, the HDP has suffered legal and even physical attacks from the Turkish authorities,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “But the expulsion of Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu from the parliament and the opening of a court case meant to shutter the party represent significant new threats to political freedom and pluralism in Turkey. Together with the imprisonment of the HDP’s coleaders, the replacement of dozens of its elected mayors with state-appointed trustees, and the arrest of thousands of its members, the latest moves against the party constitute a direct challenge to the very foundations of participatory democracy in the country. We call on the Turkish government to cease persecution of the HDP and its representatives, to release its imprisoned leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, and to allow the party to operate without obstruction. We also call on Turkey’s international partners to uphold basic democratic norms by condemning these abuses without delay.”
On March 17, the Turkish parliament stripped pro-Kurdish opposition HDP deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his seat in parliament after the Court of Cassation upheld his prison sentence for “spreading terrorist propaganda,” based on a social media post that he shared. The parliament’s decision came despite Gergerlioğlu’s appeal to the Constitutional Court challenging the case against him. Gergerlioğlu is well known for his outspoken discussion of human rights issues in the country. There are proposals waiting in the parliament to lift the immunity of nine other HDP lawmakers as part of an investigation into 2014 protests that turned violent and led to 37 deaths.
Also on March 17, the Court of Cassation filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court that demanded the closure of the HDP, alleging that the party had collaborated with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group “and aimed to damage and break the unity of the state with the Turkish people.”
Since 2016, thousands of HDP party members have been subjected to political persecution and imprisonment on dubious “terrorism” charges, including former party cochairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. Demirtaş faces a sentence of up to 142 years in prison for his actions during the 2014 protests. In December 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordered Demirtaş’s immediate release after finding Turkey guilty of violating his fundamental rights. The Turkish authorities have refused to carry out the ECtHR’s order, and Demirtaş remains imprisoned.
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