Turkey’s Erdoğan threatens main opposition CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu with arrest

Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu with possible arrest by saying on Saturday that “Do not be surprised if the judiciary invites you to somewhere too.”

Claiming that “March For Justice”, which was started by CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu after the arrest of former journalist and CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu, would not bring any benefit to themselves or the country, Erdoğan said during speaking at the Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) general session on Saturday that “calling on citizens to take to the streets disregarding the constitution is never for the benefit of themselves or the country.”

“Marching with banners reading ‘justice’ does not bring justice. If you want to seek justice in the country, parliament is the place,” Erdoğan added.

The president also noted that the article on judicial independence was binding for everyone, warning the main opposition about being an “element of oppression.”

“If we and our NGOs do not respect the separation of powers, we can get nowhere and if you have something to say on that issue you can say it. But if you attempt to be an element of oppression, do not forget that the 138th article (judicial independence) do not only work for politicians but for everyone from A to Z. Do not be surprised if the judiciary invites you to somewhere too,” Erdoğan said.

Article 138 of Turkish constitution says: “Judges shall be independent in the discharge of their duties; they shall give judgment in accordance with the Constitution, laws, and their personal conviction conforming with the law. No organ, authority, office or individual may give orders or instructions to courts or judges relating to the exercise of judicial power, send them circulars, or make recommendations or suggestions. No questions shall be asked, debates held, or statements made in the Legislative Assembly relating to the exercise of judicial power concerning a case under trial. Legislative and executive organs and the administration shall comply with court decisions; these organs and the administration shall neither alter them in any respect, nor delay their execution.”

A high criminal court in İstanbul on Wednesday handed down a prison sentence of 25 years to CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu over a report on for ‘leaking state secrets’ in the Syria-bound National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks case. Former journalist and CHP deputy Berberoğlu was sent to prison immediately after the ruling was announced.

The decision 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. Berberoğlu, who became the first CHP lawmaker to be handed prison time, was accused of providing daily Cumhuriyet with video purporting to show Turkey’s intelligence agency trucking weapons to Syria.

Cumhuriyet daily had reported in May 2015 that  trucks allegedly owned by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) were found to contain weapons and ammunition that were headed for Syria when they were stopped and searched in southern Turkey in early 2014.

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 Turkish government has accused followers of the Gülen movement in the judiciary and security institutions of illegally ordering the search, claiming that the trucks were carrying “humanitarian aid to Turkmens” in Syria.

The court first gave a life sentence to Berberoğlu on charges of ‘revealing the information of the state that should stay secret for the purposes of political and military spying.’ But the court subsequently reduced the sentence to 25 years. The court also said the lawmaker would be stripped of his political rights following the announcement of the decision.

Cumhuriyet’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, was also present at the hearing on Wednesday, while the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, did not attend as he left for Germany last year. “It is a decision to obstruct journalism,” Gül told reporters outside the court.

The court ruled to separate Berberoğlu’s file from that of Dündar and Gül, who are accused of ‘intentionally and willfully aiding an armed terror group.’ The court, which did not render a verdict for Gül and Dündar, saying their trials would continue.

Berberoğlu is a former journalist, who started his career at business daily Dünya in 1981. In his long journalism career, Berberoğlu also worked for Cumhuriyet, CNN Türk and Radikal. He also served as Hürriyet daily’s editor-in-chief from 2009 to 2014.  Berberoğlu was elected to the CHP caucus during an extraordinary meeting on Sept. 5-6, 2014. He was subsequently appointed as the party’s vice-chairman responsible for relations with the media on Sept. 14, 2014, by Kılıçdaroğlu.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of June 17, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 240 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com) June 14, 2017

June 17, 2017

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