DEBATE / TURKEY – 25 years jail for exposing government crimes

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The Erdogan administration continues its witch-hunt on dissenting voices.

The latest arrest involves a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP – center-left social democrat and secular party) and member of parliament, Enis Berberoglu.

The parliamentarian was sentenced to 25 years in prison on this 21st of June 2017 for sending images to the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet showing government trucks carrying weapons to Syrian Turkmen rebels in 2015.

The two journalists implicated in the case were also sentenced to five years for assisting a “terrorist organisation”.

The video showed Turkish soldiers intercepting a truck on route to Syria from the Internal Security (MIT). The crates contained weapons according to Enis Berberoglu and the journalists’article.

The Turkmen rebels fight in northern Syria’s northern Idlib province near the Turkish border. They’ve been linked with terrorist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (renamed to Tahrir al-Sham) and have participated in the battles of Aleppo with various shady rebel groups. A part of the Turkmen rebels is fighting for the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a designated terrorist organization, which aims to establish an independent state.

Turkmen in Syria number from half to three million, who originally migrated to the Levant in the 11th century. Both Assad regimes have refused to give minority status to them and a part of the Turkish speaking group decided to take up arms in 2012 – heavily supported by Ankara. The Erdogan government first stated that the trucks contained humanitarian aid, but later retaliated saying that it doesn’t matter what material was being sent.

The arms were likely resold to more extreme groups or were at least used to fight next to al-Nusra against government forces. Either way, Erdogan indirectly supports groups which most of the world considers as terrorist organisations. To protect his proxy war, he’s willing to jail those internal voices who expose his actions.

Cumhuriyet’s editor in chief, Can Dundar, fled to Germany when sentenced, but the MP Enis Berberoglu has already been arrested.

What will be his fate? Will the lifting of parliamentary immunity continue to be used to imprison more of the opposition?

Is there any way left to uphold democratic values in Turkey?

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Noel Daniel Vig

Political Scientist-Assistant Managing Editor for English

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