CHP kicks off Walk of Justice to protest arrest of deputy

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Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, head of the Republican People's Party (CHP) speaks during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey on June 14, 2017. Fatih Kurt / Anadolu Agency

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Wednesday announced the start of a “Walk of Justice” from Ankara to İstanbul to protest the arrest of deputy Enis Berberoğlu, calling on all people to take to the streets on Thursday in Ankara, the Cumhuriyet daily reported.

A high criminal court in İstanbul on Wednesday handed down a prison sentence of 25 years to Berberoğlu over a report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks, sending him to prison immediately after the ruling was announced.

“I will only hold a banner that reads ‘Justice,’ and we will start our walk. Until justice and democracy dominate in Turkey,” said Kılıçdaroğlu at a press conference following the court decision.

The CHP’s walk will start at Güvenpark in Ankara at 11:00 and is expected to end in 25 days in front of Maltepe Prison in İstanbul, where deputy Berberoğlu is being held. Provincial branches of the CHP will also simultaneously start a walk toward İstanbul.

“If somebody carries weapons illegally, they should be tried. But one day they will be taken to court. Mr. Berberoğlu was sentenced to 25 years without any evidence. Those who took this decision will be unable to retract it. Those who carried out the July 20 coup [declaration of a state of emergency by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)] finished justice and democracy,” said Kılıçdaroğlu adding: “Judges are no longer judges. They look to the palace [President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] and wait for orders before making decisions. Turkey for the first time is facing this … serious situation.”

The decision was made by the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court. Berberoğlu was convicted of revealing state information that was supposed to remain secret for the purpose of political and military spying.

The court initially handed down a life sentence to Berberoğlu, but it was later reduced to 25 years “in consideration of the sentence’s possible effects on the future of the convicted.”

When the MİT truck story first broke in 2015, it produced a political firestorm in Turkey about the role of the Turkish spy agency in arming rebel factions in Syria and prompted an investigation into Cumhuriyet daily journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, who published the report.

They were first jailed while facing trial on spy charges for publishing footage purporting to show the MİT transporting weapons to Syria in 2014. Later, the two journalists were released pending trial.

When Dündar later published a book titled “We Are Arrested,” he mapped out the details of the news story on May 27, 2015, saying that a leftist lawmaker brought the information to him. Upon that new revelation, the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a new investigation and examined Dündar’s phone calls during the days leading up to the publication of the story.

The prosecutor’s office detected a phone conversation between CHP deputy Berberoğlu and Dündar on May 27.

A new indictment was drafted for Berberoğlu.

Making a statement at the İstanbul Courthouse, CHP deputy Barış Yarkadaş said Berberoğlu had given a short speech after the court announced its ruling.

“What we have gone through is like a cartoon. We are like the actors in that play. We are in a comedy. Those who gave this sentence to me should know I can go to jail, I can get out of jail, I can serve my sentence, do it for my homeland. May our homeland live long. I will continue my judicial struggle. I will get out of jail in a short time, but those who gave me this sentence will be convicted in the eyes of history,” Yarkadaş quoted Berberoğlu as saying.

In the meantime, CHP deputies left a parliamentary session on Wednesday in protest of Berberoğlu’s arrest.

In September 2016, an İstanbul court decided to merge the trial of journalists Dündar and Gül with that of Berberoğlu.

Wednesday’s hearing was attended by Gül while Dündar, who is abroad, was absent. The court did not make any ruling about Gül or Dündar and decided to separate their cases from that of Berberoğlu.

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