Turkey’s parliament strips pro-Kurdish deputy of seat in blow to third largest party

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Turkey’s parliament increased pressure on a pro-Kurdish opposition party on Wednesday by stripping a prominent member of his seat over a criminal conviction for spreading “terrorist propaganda” in a social media post.

The move against Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a human rights advocate, dealt a new blow to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) which nationalist allies of President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) want banned over what they say are militant links.

Gergerlioglu was the latest among many HDP lawmakers, mayors and officials jailed or forced out in recent years, and is one of many government critics to have expressed concern about an erosion of human rights in Turkey.

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He said he would resist the decision and HDP deputies held up placards in parliament supporting him. They chanted “rights, law, justice” and “putchist AKP.”

“Enough of so many anti-democratic practices. We will not bow down,” Gergerlioglu shouted, adding that the will of the people had been “trampled under foot.”

The HDP now has 55 seats in the 600-member assembly. Two HDP lawmakers also lost the right to sit in parliament last year because of convictions against them.

The HDP says Gergerlioglu, who received a 2-1/2 year jail sentence, was punished for sharing on Twitter the link to a news story that included comments from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

The HDP denies any links to the PKK, and said Gergerlioglu should have been protected by parliamentary immunity.

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Erdogan has announced a plan to strengthen rights to a fair trial and freedom of expression in Turkey, but has failed to appease his critics.

Pressure on the HDP has grown since Turkey said 13 captives, including Turkish military and police personnel, were executed by PKK militants in Iraq during a failed Turkish military operation to rescue them last month.

The PKK 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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