Release of Berberoğlu and what Turkey really needs
Enis Berberoğlu, a former veteran journalist and an MP of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was released from Istanbul’s Maltepe Prison late Sept. 20, after a ruling by the Court of Cassation which approved the five-year and 10-month sentence for Berberoğlu but withheld it until the end of his term in parliament.
He had been in jail since June 14, 2017 and was sentenced for giving video material and documents to Cumhuriyet newspaper purportedly showing material confiscated by the gendarmerie in January 2014 from trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) on their way to Syrian opposition forces. He was charged with “disclosing state secrets to the public.” The court originally sought 25 years in prison for him on espionage charges and accusations he helped terrorists. But the court had dropped the charges earlier over lack of evidence.
In 2017, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had started one of the world’s longest protests, marching from Ankara to Istanbul. He put Berberoğlu’s name down as a candidate MP in the June elections to ensure his parliamentary immunity continues, which helped Berberoğlu’s situation.
But Berberoğlu was neither the only politician nor the only journalist in jail.
According to figures from the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC), there are 138 journalists, writers and media employees in jails, arrested or sentenced.
Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has been in jail for nearly 22 months on charges of aiding terrorists, i.e. the PKK.
And then there is the case of Osman Kavala. The prominent civil society activist has been in jail since Oct. 18, 2017, for almost 11 months. He was arrested on charges of conspiring to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government through the wave of Gezi Park protests in 2013. There is still no indictment against him by a prosecutor, so we don’t know what he will be accused of.
The case of American pastor Andrew Brunson is already an international matter between Turkey and the U.S., like the cases of the Turkish banker Hakan Atilla, who is in a U.S. jail, and the U.S. hosting of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist preacher who is accused of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.
It is a fact that the Turkish judiciary received a serious blow after the coup attempt — almost a third of all judges and prosecutors were either dismissed or put in jail due to their links with the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), which is what indictments call the illegal Gülenist network.
But the normalization of the judicial system is essential for the normalization of Turkey on domestic and international platforms.
President Tayyip Erdoğan is getting prepared for two important trips. One is to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. There he is also scheduled to meet investors, which is not an easy job under the current circumstances. The other is a key meeting in Germany, where he will meet Chancellor Angela Merkel to mend relations with Germany and the European Union.
It is clear that the democratic normalization of Turkey, for which the normalization of the judiciary is crucial, could be better than announcing revised inflation and growth figures, reviewing economic programs and increasing interest rates for a better economic situation.