Istanbul court hands CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu 25 years jail time in case of intel trucks to Syria
REUTERS photoAn Istanbul court sentenced main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu 25 years in prison on June 14 for “leaking state secrets” in the Syria-bound intelligence trucks case, prompting a storm of reaction from the CHP.
Berberoğlu, who became the first CHP lawmaker to be handed prison time, was accused of providing daily Cumhuriyet with video purporting to show Turkey’s intelligence agency trucking weapons to Syria.
A Cumhuriyet report in May 2015 claimed that trucks allegedly owned by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) were found to contain weapons and ammunition that were headed for Syria when they were stopped and searched in southern Turkey in early 2014.
The Turkish government, however, accused followers of the Gülen movement in the judiciary and security institutions of illegally ordering the search, claiming that the trucks were carrying “humanitarian aid to Turkmens” in the war-torn country.
The Istanbul 14th Court of Serious Crimes first gave a life sentence to the CHP lawmaker on charges of “revealing the information of the state that should stay secret for the purposes of political and military spying.” But the court subsequently reduced the sentence to 25 years. The court also said the lawmaker would be stripped of his political rights following the announcement of the decision.
In his first remarks after the ruling, Berberoğlu said those who created such a victimization should be ashamed of themselves.
Berberoğlu, who was present at the hearing, was taken to the police station on the court premises to be imprisoned in Istanbul’s Maltepe district. Following the court’s decision, the CHP held an emergency meeting, after which party Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is expected to make an official statement. Kılıçdaroğlu was also known to have called Berberoğlu on the phone following the court ruling, telling him: “Don’t be upset, we stand right behind you. We’ll continue our struggle until you get your freedom.”
Meanwhile, the party’s deputies quit a plenary session in parliament to protest Berberoğlu’s arrest.
‘An intimidation attempt’
“The imprisonment of our lawmaker is a bitter example showing that the judiciary is under the complete control of the executive organ,” CHP deputy chairman Engin Altay told reporters outside Istanbul’s Çağlayan courthouse.
“If judges make their decisions thinking ‘how can I please the dictator, how will my rulings make the dictator look at me sympathetically to the point that the dictator advances me [in my career]?’ then God damn such justice. This decision is a move to intimidate everyone who is not happy about the AKP. It is also a move to intimidate a society that says ‘let democracy march,’” Altay said.
Cumhuriyet’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, was also present at the hearing on June 14, while the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, did not attend as he left for Europe last year.
“It is a decision to obstruct journalism,” Gül told reporters outside the court.
The court ruled to separate Berberoğlu’s file from that of Dündar and Gül, who are accused of “intentionally and willfully aiding an armed terror group.” The court, which did not render a verdict for Gül and Dündar, saying their trials would continue.
Berberoğlu is a former journalist, who started his career at business daily Dünya in 1981. In his long journalism career, Berberoğlu also worked for Cumhuriyet, CNN Türk and Radikal. He also served as daily Hürriyet’s editor-in-chief from 2009 to 2014.
Berberoğlu was elected to the CHP caucus during an extraordinary meeting on Sept. 5-6, 2014. He was subsequently appointed as the party’s vice-chairman responsible for relations with the media on Sept. 14, 2014, by Kılıçdaroğlu.