Turkish police detain politician staging parliament sit-in

ISTANBUL — Turkish police on Sunday detained a prominent pro-Kurdish party politician who was staging a days-long protest in parliament.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, from the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, refused to leave parliament after he was stripped of his status and immunity as lawmaker on Wednesday. The party said around 100 police officers entered parliament to detain him. Video of his detention showed police officers dragging him away.

The party, which is in the throes of a government crackdown, said Gergerlioglu was detained as he was performing his ablutions for morning prayers.

“The police insisted on detaining him, and took him away in his pajamas and slippers,” the HDP said in a statement.

Gergerlioglu, the former head of an Islamist human rights association, has exposed several human rights violations in Turkey, including alleged illegal strip-searches of detainees by police.

Gergerlioglu was convicted in 2018 and sentenced to two years and six months in prison for “spreading terrorist propaganda” after he retweeted a 2016 news article about a call for peace by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. An appeals court confirmed the conviction, saying he was “owning” and “legitimizing” the PKK by sharing the link, which included a photograph of armed fighters.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, Europe and the United States. It has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. A fragile cease-fire and peace talks collapsed in the summer of 2015.

Supreme Court prosecutors have also filed an indictment at the Constitutional Court for the HDP’s closure this week and are seeking a five-year ban on 687 members’ participation in politics. It is the latest crackdown on the party, which has seen its former leaders, lawmakers and thousands of activists arrested.

HDP is the second-largest opposition party in parliament, elected with more than 5.8 million votes in 2018.

The Turkish president’s nationalist ally, Devlet Bahceli, had called on the assembly’s speaker to remove Gergerlioglu from the building in a series of tweets Saturday, describing him as a separatist.

“The Grand Turkish National Assembly is not the dorms of separatists or the place where fugitives can take refuge. The dagger in the great Turkish nation’s heart cannot be allowed to nest or tolerated … Laying out a bed in parliament is a dark stain on democracy,” he wrote in one tweet.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned to the nationalists to cement his power as president and with a combined majority in parliament.

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