Main opposition CHP lawmaker Berberoğlu speaks after release from prison
CHP chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (L) met with MP Berberoğlu after his release on Sept. 21.
Turkey’s Court of Cassation has approved the conviction of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu, while postponing the execution of the five-year jail sentence due to his status as a member of parliament.
Berberoğlu was released from Istanbul’s Maltepe Prison late Sept. 20 following the top court’s order, which approved the five-year 10-month prison sentence of a local court, while suspending the execution of the sentence due to Berberoğlu’s reelection as an MP in the June 24 elections.
“I have been in prison for 16 months over a news article. I was in solitary confinement for 16 months, seeing no other convict,” Berberoğlu said outside the prison after being released on Sept. 20.
Berberoğlu’s lawyer Murat Ergun said they would appeal to the Constitutional Court over the judicial process and ruling.
The CHP lawmaker was arrested in 2017 and initially sentenced to 25 years in prison for espionage on charges he provided daily Cumhuriyet with a video purporting to show Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucking weapons to Syria.
Following an unusual appeal process during which the file was shuffled between an appeals court, a local court and the Court of Cassation, on Feb. 13 this year, the local court ruled five years and 10 months in jail for Berberoğlu for “disclosing a state secret,“ dropping the espionage charges.
Berberoğlu’s legal team had appealed the ruling to the top court, and the file was brought to the Court of Cassation’s 16th Civil Chamber.
After Berberoğlu was re-elected as a lawmaker, the CHP had appealed to the top court for the suspension of the court process as he had regained immunity from prosecution as a lawmaker. But the appeal had been rejected.
The court continued the appeal process and ruled to approve the initial ruling of the local court while suspending the jail sentence.
According to Article 83 of the constitution, “a lawmaker that is accused of committing a crime before or after an election cannot be held, interrogated, arrested or tried without the decision of parliament.” The prosecution of a court ruling, on the other hand, should be suspended until the lawmaker’s parliamentary membership ends.
But an MP can be stripped off their parliamentary seat if the issue is brought to the parliament’s agenda by the speaker of parliament.
The ruling of the top court will be conveyed this week to the speaker, who has the power not to bring the ruling to the parliament’s agenda until the term ends.
“I entered prison as a CHP lawmaker. I am getting out of prison as a CHP lawmaker. This 16-month period is one that necessitates serious thinking,” Berberoğlu said.
His wife, Oya Berberoğlu, expressed her happiness over his release, adding that Parliament Speaker Binali Yıldırım had called her before she went to prison and expressed his contentment over the decision.
Justice minister says ruling ‘independent’
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said Berberoğlu’s release “is an independent ruling of the court.”
“The Turkish justice system has made an independent ruling. Of course, the reasoned decision will be seen. For this reason the address of this subject and decision-maker is the Turkish justice system,” Gül said on Sept. 21.