Turkey’s main opposition CHP begins ‘march of justice’ in protest of deputy’s arrest

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Thursday kicked off a “march of justice” from Turkey’s capital Ankara to İstanbul in protest of the arrest of CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu on Wednesday.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu arrived at Ankara’s Güven Park, where the party began the march, on Thursday with a banner in his hand that read only one word: justice.

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.

Kılıçdaroğlu who spoke to reporters at the Güven Park, said: “We are faced with a dictatorial regime in our land in Turkey. We say, ‘enough is enough.’ Justice has to come to this country. If there is a need to pay a price for this, first, we will pay that price. We need to struggle altogether for the future of this country,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.

The CHP’s “march of justice” is expected to last for 25 days and end in front of the Maltepe Prison in İstanbul where deputy Berberoğlu is being held.

“This march has nothing to do with a political party. Justice, justice, justice. We don’t want a dictatorial regime, we don’t want coup makers, we don’t want those who staged the July 20 coup. We don’t want to live in a country where there is no justice,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.

Meanwhile, Ankara Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Melih Gökçek said on Thursday that a “march of justice” started by the CHP could be interpreted as a second coup attempt, following a failed coup in Turkey in July of last year.

Gökçek wrote in a Twitter message that Kılıçdaroğlu was supported by the army. “In this march towards İstanbul, if there is any uprising by FETÖ [a derogatory term used by government circles to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement] people who somehow still manage to stay in the army, then Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is responsible for this,” he said.

According to Gökçek, this could be seen as a second coup attempt after the failed coup on July 15, 2016.

The CHP’s “march of justice” is expected to last for 25 days and end in front of Maltepe Prison in İstanbul, where deputy Berberoğlu is being held.

Also on Thursday, the İstanbul 15th High Criminal Court on Thursday rejected an objection against the arrest of CHP deputy Berberoğlu filed by his lawyers. Berberoğlu was arrested on Wednesday immediately after he was handed down a prison sentence of 25 years over a report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks. He was sent to prison from the courtroom.

The decision for Berberoğlu’s arrest 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.

The arrest of Berberoğlu, who would normally enjoy parliamentary immunity, was possible because the CHP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had lent support to a proposal submitted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on removing the immunity deputies from prosecution last year.

Breaking his months-long silence about the arrest of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-Chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş, CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu has said that Demirtaş is a respectable politician and that he might visit him in prison.

“If circumstances permit, why not [visit him]. He is a respectable politician elected by the people, and he won people’s admiration [when he ran for the presidency in 2014]. Demirtaş is someone who has distanced himself from terrorism: He has made explicit statements about this [against terrorism]. I have told the parliament speaker that I don’t find the jailing of an elected politician to be right,” he said on CNN Türk on Wednesday night.

The immunity of all deputies who face probes was lifted in May 2016. Currently, 11 HDP deputies are also in jail on charges of terrorist links. Demirtaş was arrested in November 2016 along with several other party deputies including the other co-chairperson, Figen Yüksekdağ, on terror charges.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, which claimed the lives of more than 240 people. Immediately after the coup attempt, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) declared a state of emergency on June 20, which is still in effect.

Kılıçdaroğlu refers to the declaration of the state of emergency as another coup because the government has jailed thousands of people and purged thousands of others from state posts on coup charges. (SCF with turkishminute.com) June 15, 2017


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