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Turkish human rights defender receives 30 months in jail for peace calls
Turkish human rights defender receives 30 months in jail for peace calls
3 Mart 2018 Cumartesi Saat: 18:03

Turkish human rights defender receives 30 months in jail for peace calls

Turkish human rights activist and medic Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu. (Photo: Gergerlioglu)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A leading Turkish human rights activist and medic, Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, received a sentence of two years and six months in prison on Thursday over his social media activity calling for peace with the country’s Kurdish population.

A penal court in the northwestern Turkish city of Kocaeli deemed a picture that Gergerlioglu shared on his Twitter feed in late 2016 as propaganda for “a terrorist organization.”

“Look at this photograph, and you will understand why this war is about nothing but slowly dying out. Same mothers, different flags,” the tweet read.

The picture featured a funeral enactment by women who were standing by two coffins, one representing that of a fallen Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighter, the other a Turkish army conscript, belligerents of two sides locked in a decades-long conflict.

“Constitutional rights of all citizens of the Republic of Turkey are gone for good,” Gergerlioglu told Kurdistan 24 about his conviction over the phone from the Kurdish city of Batman.

The picture that led to Turkish human rights defender Gergerlioglu's imprisonment to 30 months in jail. (Source: Gergerlioglu)

“The point was to show that two young men could be by each other alive,” the conservative Muslim activist said in a defensive tone, stating he had come across the picture on the Internet and he felt compelled to share it.

He said last week’s condemnation of the renowned novelist Ahmet Altan, his economist brother Mehmet Altan, along with four other high-profile defendants to aggravated life sentences for involvement in the 2016 coup attempt was already enough evidence for the erosion of the rule of law.

“My case is just another way of that declaration of the end of the law. They are showcasing how they can make one’s life miserable,” Gegerlioglu, a former chairperson of the Association for Human Rights and Solidarity with the Oppressed (MAZLUMDER), argued.

Mazlumder is a nationwide human rights organization, continuing to oppose a six times-extended state of emergency in place since the failed coup and an ever-increasing government crackdown on large segments of the society.

Prosecutors charging him had also compiled his columns for a liberal Turkish news outlet, other social media activity, his appearance one time at the now-shuttered left-wing IMC TV, and writings on the peace process between the Colombian government FARC rebels.

“There was not even an accusation regarding the content of my attendance at the IMC program,” he said, adding that the case was now pending in front of a higher court which if upheld would lead to his incarceration.

An expert in pulmonology and the treatment of tuberculosis by profession, he was dismissed—like over 150,000 other government employees—from his job at a state hospital in Kocaeli with a decree a year ago on the ground of posing a national security threat.

He has since found employment at a private hospital in Batman as it was difficult for him to make a living elsewhere, he said, pointing at the increasing restrictions promulgated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration.

Gergerlioglu was one of few dissenting Turkish voices defending the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence from Iraq last September.

He also signed a petition along with 169 leading public figures in January opposing Turkey’s ongoing war on the besieged enclave of Afrin in Syrian Kurdistan.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag labeled them foreign lackeys and terrorist sympathizers.

Over the weekend, authorities revealed that 786 people were arrested in the past month for their social media posts on Afrin where Turkish airstrike and ground shelling have killed up to 200 civilians and displaced 60,000.

“This war is an unjustified one,” Gergerlioglu said. “It is only creating enmity between the Kurds and Turks.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

Kurdistan24

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