Forced into action

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu decided on his ‘Justice’ march in response to the 25-year jail sentence imposed on Enis Berberoğlu, one of the CHP MPs for Istanbul.

Berberoğlu had been the editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily Hürriyet, which is also known as “the admiral’s flagship” of the Turkish press. In June 2015 he was elected to parliament after he was forced to resign as editor. He was then promoted to the post of CHP vice-president in charge of media affairs.

His ‘crime’ was to provide a copy of a video of the Turkish secret service apparently delivering weapons to Syrian rebels - Erdoğan denies any active Turkish involvement in Syria, of course. The video was published by Can Dundar, another famed journalist and editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, who published it on the daily’s website. Dundar himself was also charged as a spy for revealing the state secrets - he was released in February 2016 after an attempt was made on his life during one of the court sessions.

The video was recorded during a police stop-and-search operation near Turkey’s border with Syria in January 2014. The seized trucks were carrying arms and ammunition destined for an Islamist militia. It turned out to be one of many clandestine shipments organised by the National Intelligence Agency under the cloak of ‘humanitarian aid’ to the Syrian Turkoman population. It had been arranged with the full knowledge and blessing of the AKP government.

The ensuing fracas rocked both the government and the president - several gendarmerie officers, public prosecutors, etc were removed from office, detained and/or charged. Anybody who republished the video was dealt with in a similar way. Erdoğan seems to believe that the seizure of the arms resulted from a plot intended to discredit Turkey before the international community, and might even have led to a trial before an international tribunal for war crimes and illicit arms running. He thinks it was all set up by Islamist supporters of the Gülen movement.

Because of their alleged role in the leaking of the video, Erdem Gül, the Ankara chief of Hurriyet, Dundar and Berberoğlu were charged together. But Berberoğlu had parliamentary immunity and his case was dealt with separately, while Gül and Dundar were remanded in custody.

Yet another twist came in March 2016, when Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP supported a constitutional amendment to remove the parliamentary immunity of “criminal” Kurdish MPs. The CHP leader used all his influence to get it passed with a majority large enough to avoid a referendum on the issue. Infamously he said at the time that his party would support the constitutional amendment despite the fact that it was against the constitution. Following the passing of this amendment, the co-leaders of the HDP, together with some of its MPs, were arrested and then convicted. Nobody from the ranks of CHP called for “justice” then.

In June 2017 the trial-in-camera of the three journalists ended with the conviction of Berberoğlu. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but after taking mitigating circumstances into account the court reduced the sentence to 25 years. All this forced Kılıçdaroğlu into action.