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Pro-Kurdish politician's parliamentary status restored in Turkey

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By Reuters
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ISTANBUL – A pro-Kurdish politician regained his status as a lawmaker in Turkey’s parliament on Friday four months after it was removed, following a top court ruling that his rights had been violated by his imprisonment on terrorism charges.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a human rights activist and a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), had his parliamentary status in March after a 2-1/2 jail sentence became final.

He was found guilty of spreading terrorist propaganda based on a link he shared on Twitter to a news story that included comments by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Gergerlioglu denies any wrongdoing.

But the Constitutional Court ruled this month that Gergerlioglu’s rights had been violated by his imprisonment and he was subsequently released from jail, having been there since April.

A summary of the Constitutional Court ruling was read out in parliament on Friday, leading to applause and celebration from HDP members.

“No one can take away the right that the people have given with injustice,” Gergerlioglu wrote on Twitter before the ruling was read out.

“It is the will of the people that has prevailed.”

Thousands of members of the HDP, Turkey’s third-largest party, have been tried as part of a years-long crackdown on the party over alleged links to the PKK.

Many prominent members of the party have been jailed, including its former co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, one of Turkey’s most well-known politicians.

Critics say Turkish courts are influenced by politics. President Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party say they are independent.

Last month, the Constitutional Court accepted an indictment calling for the HDP to be banned due to alleged ties to the PKK.

The HDP denies links to terrorism and has described the move to proscribe it as a “political coup”.

The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union. It has fought an insurgency against the state in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey since 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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