Turkish Court Orders Release of Prominent Opposition Lawmaker
Turkey’s top appeals court on Thursday ordered the release of an opposition lawmaker convicted last year of leaking classified material to the press, state media reported.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Enis Berberoglu was sentenced in June 2017 to 25 years in jail, but an appeals court in February reduced it to five years and 10 months.
Now the Court of Cassation, known as the Yargitay, ruled that Berberoglu should be released from jail and his sentence postponed for as long as he remains a member of parliament, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Berberoglu was re-elected to parliament in elections in June this year. He is expected to walk free from his Istanbul prison in the next hours.
His conviction for espionage was quashed but in February he was found guilty and jailed for the charge of “revealing information that should remain secret for the state’s security, domestic and international reasons”.
Berberoglu was the only lawmaker from the CHP — established by modern Turkey founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — to be jailed in the crackdown which followed the July 2016 failed overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
However former CHP lawmaker Eren Erdem was arrested in June over alleged links to the group blamed for the attempted coup.
Berberoglu’s case relates to the 2015 publication by the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper of images purportedly showing the Turkish intelligence service seeking to transport arms over the border to Syria.
Berberoglu was accused of giving images to Cumhuriyet’s former editor-in-chief Can Dundar, who himself fled to Germany after himself being convicted.
The lawmaker’s sentence prompted CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu to undertake a 450-kilometre (280-mile) march from Ankara to Istanbul, where he was joined by thousands of people to call for justice in Turkey under Erdogan.
The march was the opposition’s biggest action in Turkey since countrywide demonstrations against Erdogan’s rule in June 2013, known as the Gezi Park protests.
Former co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, and 10 other MPs were jailed in November 2016. Demirtas and Yuksekdag remain in jail on terror charges over alleged links to Kurdish militants.
Under a two-year state of emergency which ended in July, tens of thousands of people were arrested, including politicians and journalists, raising concerns over eroding freedom of speech and the judiciary’s independence in Turkey.