Volt reverses MP's expulsion after court reviews harassment accusations
The young political party Volt will reverse its decision to suspend and expel one of its MPs, Nilüfer Gündoğan, party leader Laurnes Dassen said after a preliminary court hearing ruled in Gündoğan's favor. Dassen and Gündoğan will sit down for a meeting as soon as possible, he said. Gündoğan said she was prepared to speak with Volt under the guidance of a mediator.
The court said the party moved too impatiently in an unfair and messy manner when dealing with the accusations of transgressive behavior made against the MP. The judge rapped the party on its knuckles, Dassen admitted.
After the ruling, Gündoğan said it would be possible to rejoin the Volt faction. "My hand remains outstretched. But it takes two to tango." She hopes "to be able to resume her work as soon as possible." Flanked by her attorneys at an Amsterdam hotel, she said she briefly spoke with Dassen over the phone. She was happy he called, and said it opened the door to repairing her relationship with the party.
The political party acted unlawfully by expelling her from the group, a judge ruled in a preliminary hearing in Amsterdam on Wednesday. The judge ruled that Volt "moved too expeditiously in the wrong direction in the whole affair." The party was ordered to reverse all measures against Gündoğan. According to the judge, the suspension, and later the termination of her party membership, were unjustified. The party must also pay her a preliminary compensation of 5,000 euros.
Gündoğan was expelled from the Volt faction on February 26 because the party determined she was guilty of transgressive behavior. She was previously suspended as a party member. Volt said Gündoğan was guilty of "pawing, unwelcome sexual advances, intimidation and abuse of position."
Volt conducted an investigation into the reports and concluded that the MP could not continue with the orgnaization. Gündoğan refused to participate because she did not trust the firm carrying out the investigation, and she was kept in the dark about the accusations for an extended period of time.
In the court hearing on March 1, she denied that any incidents of transgressive behaviour took place. She thought the suspension and termination of her party membership was unjustified.
The judge agreed with the MP. She said there was no substantive basis for the suspension. "Suspending Gündoğan without a proper explanation as to why, without explaining the nature of the complaints, and without any form of adversarial hearing, is unacceptable."
The judge also struck down Volt's decision to terminate Gündoğan's party membership. Volt should have warned the MP at least twice about any possible undesirable behaviour, minutes of meetings were not made available, and there was no plan of action proposed to improve the situation. Volt did not give the politician the opportunity to defend herself internally in a closed meeting as it should have done, the judge said.
Moreover, the investigation into the alleged misconduct was not yet completed when Gündoğan was expelled from the group. "There was therefore no reason to convert the suspension into a termination of party membership."
Gündoğan said that she had already received congratulations from "a lot" of Volt members shortly after the hearing. She now hopes that "the nightmare will come to an end" and that she can begin clearing her name. Gündoğan said, "Time and healing is now needed so that my party and I can come out of this stronger."
Gündoğan said that both she and Volt should "learn lessons from this error." According to her lawyer, Geert-Jan Knoops, that is also why the ruling is important. "You should never treat allegations in such a way again. That is extremely bad for the image of politics. It can really be less frenetic, more transparent and more consultative. There are plenty of ways to investigate such a case."
Reporting by ANP