A Turkish court convicted on Wednesday a prominent lawmaker from the main opposition party for revealing state secrets and sentenced him to 25 years in prison, prompting an outcry from his party.
Enis Berberoglu from the pro-secular Republican People’s Party or CHP was found guilty on the charge of revealing secrets on alleged government arms-smuggling to Syrian rebels “for political or military espionage,” according to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency.
Berberoglu was blamed for giving journalists images that reportedly date back to January 2014 showing local authorities searching Syria-bound trucks allegedly carrying ammunition, leading to a standoff with Turkish intelligence officials. In May 2015, the Cumhuriyet newspaper published a story saying the images proved Turkey was smuggling arms to Islamist rebels.
Can Dundar, Cumhuriyet’s then editor-in-chief who is now abroad, and its Ankara representative Erdem Gul, are also on trial for the same charges. Separately, the three are being tried for “aiding a terror organization without being members,” referring to the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen who Turkey claims orchestrated last summer’s bloody coup.
The Istanbul court, at an earlier hearing this year, said the leaked images aimed to manipulate international opinion on Turkey “with the aim to have Turkey put on trial as a country supporting terror,” according to Anadolu.
CHP lawmakers left parliament in protest, saying the party will continue fighting “fascism.” Parliamentarian Engin Altay said the verdict was to “intimidate the opposition.”
Gul said the case was based on flimsy evidence and “it was a trial to prevent journalism in Turkey.”
Berberoglu, who is also a respected journalist and a former editor-in-chief of Hurriyet, one of Turkey’s leading newspapers, was on trial for life in prison but the sentence was reduced for “good behavior.”
After the verdict, the Istanbul lawmaker said, “I know you won’t forget me and I won’t forget you.”