Turkey’s main opposition party is holding a protest march from Ankara, to Istanbul after an MP was sentenced to 25 years in prison on spying charges.
Enis Berberoglu, the first Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP to be handed prison time since the lifting of parliamentary immunities last year, was accused of giving an opposition newspaper video footage purporting to show Turkey’s intelligence agency trucking weapons into Syria.
CHP supporters gathered at an Ankara park on Thursday after party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu announced the march in protest against the conviction a day ago, which the party called an attempt to intimidate the opposition.
Party officials said the march would head to a prison in Istanbul, where Berberoglu is jailed.
“If we will live in this country together, the existence of justice is a must. There is no state or human, where there is no justice …
“Our march will continue until there is justice in this country,” Kilicdaroglu said before starting his march in Ankara.
“We are in the days where the actual guilty are not tried, but the innocent are,” he said, adding that he would carry a banner reading “Justice” during his march.
Engin Altay, a deputy chairman for the CHP, said on Wednesday the decision to jail Berberoglu was aimed at “intimidating the opposition” and was a sign that the judiciary was under government control.
Turkish trucks in Syria
A report in the opposition-linked Cumhuriyet newspaper in May 2015 said that trucks allegedly owned by Turkey’s state intelligence service were found to contain weapons and ammunition headed for Syria when they were stopped and searched in southern Turkey in early 2014.
“The defendant has committed the crime of disclosing information that should remain secret for state security, domestic and external benefits, with the aim of political and military espionage,” the court document shared by Turkish media, said.
A dozen MPs from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, along with tens of thousands of academics, journalists and civil servants, have been arrested under the state of emergency that followed last year’s failed coup.
Following Cumhuriyet’s report, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged the trucks belonged to the National Intelligence Organisation, and said they were carrying aid to Turkmens battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
He accused Cumhuriyet journalists, including editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, of undermining Turkey’s reputation and vowed Dundar would “pay a heavy price“.
Last year, Dundar and Gul were sentenced to five years in jail each for revealing state secrets in a related case, and the prosecutor is now seeking an additional 10 years in prison for the two over the report on the trucks.