Turkey hands opposition lawmaker 25 years jail time in espionage case


Turkey's main opposition party set off on a 425-kilometer (265-mile) march Thursday from the capital to an Istanbul prison to protest the conviction of one of its lawmakers.

Leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu walks with a placard reading "Justice" during a protest march in Ankara on June 15, 2017.

A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced a Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker to 25 years jail for leaking classified material to the press, the first time a main opposition party deputy has been locked up in an ongoing crackdown.

"We do not want to live in a country without justice", Kilicdaroglu said.

Berberoglu was accused of leaking the information - showing a truck belonging to the intelligence service allegedly shipping weapons and ammunition in 2014 - to Cumhuriyet newspaper, which published a story in 2015.

To read this article in one of Houston's most-spoken languages, click on the button below. "The day I am freed I hear about Enis Berberoglu's arrest", he said.

Can Dundar, Cumhuriyet's then editor-in-chief who is now overseas, and its Ankara representative, Erdem Gul, are also on trial on similar charges.

Turkey blames the coup attempt on US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies the allegations.

Berberoglu's lawyer on Thursday morning launched an appeal against the sentence and arrest at an Istanbul court.

In response, CHP chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu called for a "Justice March" that drew thousands of people.

Senior CHP lawmaker Gursel Tekin told local channel CNNTurk later Wednesday that his party would be launching "democracy protests" in all of Turkey's 81 provinces. A vigil was also expected in front of the Maltepe prison in Istanbul where Berberoglu is now being held.

Following Cumhuriyet's report in 2015, President Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged that the trucks belonged to the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT), and said they were carrying aid to Turkmen battling both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State.

Guven has been formally arrested over a news story about the death in a traffic accident in May of senior Turkish prosecutor Mustafa Alper, who had been a leading figure in the prosecutions of suspects detained over last year's failed coup.

After the verdict, Kilicdaroglu tweeted: "In this country, the punishment for covering the news of a truck filled with weapons heading to terror groups is 25 years in prison but illegal arm shipments are allowed!" Since the failed coup of July 2016, several MPs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) have been sentenced and imprisoned for charges linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Kilicdaroglu, who is reportedly being escorted by his security detail, stressed that he wants justice, democracy and freedom in Turkey.

Berberoglu is the first politician from the Republican People's Party to be imprisoned since a constitutional amendment stripped parliamentary immunities past year.