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Constitutional court rejects jailed CHP deputy’s appeal for release

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has rejected an application for release filed by jailed deputy Enis Berberoğlu, finding his allegations to be lacking in merit, the T24 news website reported.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Berberoğlu applied to the court alleging that his arrest in 2017 violated his right to liberty and security since it was unlawful and that because of it he was unable to fulfill his duties as a member of parliament in representing his constituency.

His lawyer made a brief statement, reminding they had applied to the court 14 months ago and saying the top court’s decision denying release was “deserving of criticism.”

The 16th Penal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals previously rejected the request for abatement of proceedings against Berberoğlu on the grounds that he has been again granted immunity from prosecution after his re-election as a deputy in the general election of June 24. The court also ruled that his request for release should be evaluated in a substantial examination of his case file.

Following the rejection of the request by the Supreme Court of Appeals, Berberoğlu announced that he would protest the verdict of the court. Stating that he would not exercise his right to defense in court and would cut off his communication with the outside world, Berberoğlu has not been attending visits from his family, attorneys and other deputies since July 23.

In May 2016 the Turkish Parliament voted to eliminate the immunity from prosecution of 138 deputies from among 667 criminal cases from local courts filed with the legislature for review.

The CHP controversially supported the bill to avoid being seen as an ally of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) since most of the criminal cases involved HDP deputies. During the discussion in parliament, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Mustafa Şentop said in the event of re-election, deputies would regain their immunity.

Berberoğlu is a former journalist who was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison and put behind bars on June 14, 2017 on charges of “aiding a terrorist organization,” “espionage” and “leaking secret state documents.”

In February an appeals court ruled there was no evidence supporting the charges of “espionage” and “aiding a terrorist organization” and reduced the 25-year sentence while still sentencing the CHP deputy to five years, 10 months for making secret government documents public.

Berberoğlu, the first CHP deputy to be given prison time, is accused of providing the Cumhuriyet daily with a video purporting to show trucks operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) sending weapons to radical jihadist groups in Syria to fight against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Berberoğlu started his career as journalist at the Dünya business newspaper in 1981. In his long journalism career Berberoğlu also worked for Cumhuriyet, CNN Türk and Radikal and served as editor-in-chief of Hürriyet from 2009 to 2014.

(Turkish Minute with Stockholm Center for Freedoms [SCF])

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