Court halts trial of MP in MİT trucks case due to parliamentary immunity

Enis Berberoğlu

A high criminal court in İstanbul has decided to halt the trial of an opposition lawmaker due to his acquisition of parliamentary immunity in a case concerning a report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks allegedly transporting weapons to rebels in Syria in 2014, Turkish Minute reported on Wednesday, citing the DHA news agency.

The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court, which was to conduct a retrial of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu and İstanbul’s Adalar district mayor Erdem Gül, both former journalists, decided on Wednesday to halt the trial of Berberoğlu since he acquired parliamentary immunity following his re-election to parliament in the May general election. The proceedings will be suspended until Berberoğlu loses his immunity.

Gül’s trial, however, will continue.

In April Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that did not impose prison sentences on the two politicians in the MİT trucks trial.

Gül was the Ankara representative of the Cumhuriyet daily when the newspaper published a report on the trucks in May 2015, which caused a political firestorm in Turkey and led to the filing of criminal charges against journalists and others involved in the publication of the story.

Berberoğlu, who was the alleged source of the news report, and Gül faced charges of aiding and abetting a terrorist organization.

The court did not hand down any sentence to Berberoğlu when it concluded this trial in 2019 because he had already faced the same charges in another trial related to the MİT trucks and was given a lengthy sentence. Gül was not sentenced to prison, either, because the charges against him were not filed within the four-month period after the publication of the article as required by Turkey’s Press Law.

When the MİT trucks story first broke, it led to a debate about the role of the Turkish spy agency in arming rebel factions in Syria and prompted an investigation into Cumhuriyet daily journalists Can Dündar, who was the paper’s editor-in-chief at the time, and Gül, who published the report.

They were first jailed while facing trial on spy charges for publishing footage purporting to show MİT transporting weapons to Syria. Later, the two journalists were released pending trial.

Dündar left Turkey in 2016 and has been living in exile in Germany since then, while Gül entered politics and was elected mayor of Adalar in the 2019 local elections.

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 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 then drafted naming Berberoğlu, who was arrested in 2017. He was given a sentence of almost six years on charges of revealing state secrets and was jailed for 15 months until his release in September 2018.

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