Turkey police briefly hold pro-Kurdish MP after 4 nights at parliament

March 21, 2021 2:02 AM EDT

FILE PHOTO: Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Omer Gergerlioglu and the other lawmakers from his party hold a protest after the Turkish Parliament stripped him of his MP status during a session at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey March


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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police briefly detained pro-Kurdish lawmaker Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu at his party's headquarters in parliament on Sunday, where he had been staying for four nights to protest the stripping of his MP status over a separate case.

Gergerlioglu, a human rights activist, was in pyjamas and slippers when police seized him just before his morning prayers in Ankara, a video released by his Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) showed.

By midday, he had been released and said the latest charges against the HDP, on which the police had been seeking a statement from him, were "made up".

Turkey's third-largest party has faced a years-long crackdown that culminated on Wednesday, when a top prosecutor moved to shut down the party over its over alleged links to Kurdish militants - charges the HDP denies as a "political coup".

Hours before the prosecutor's action, parliament had stripped Gergerlioglu of his MP status and related protections following an earlier conviction for spreading terrorist propaganda by sharing a news story link on Twitter.

He intended to remain at the HDP's parliament offices.

But police seized him, a court document released by the HDP said, as they sought a statement related to a new investigation in connection with alleged chants on Wednesday as the party members moved from the General Assembly to the HDP's headquarters.

The chant "Long live leader Apo" was allegedly heard, the document said - an apparent reference to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Ocalan, jailed since 1999. The PKK is deemed a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

In a video posted on Twitter after his release, Gergerlioglu said the crime was fabricated to get him out of the parliament building. "The detention was very immoral," he said, adding he could still be detained in relation to the earlier conviction.

Turkey's Western allies condemned the action to shut down the HDP, while President Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party, which has a parliamentary majority with nationalists, defended it. Thousands of Turkish Kurds rallied Saturday in Istanbul in support of the HDP.

Mithat Sancar, HDP co-chair, said in an interview on Halk TV on Saturday that dissolving the party and establishing a new one were options. "In this system, we cannot expect the judiciary to make independent decisions (so) we do not expect any court decision other than closing the party down," he said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Kim Coghill)



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