A Turkish court has sentenced a prominent lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) to 25 years in jail for his role in leaking secret documents to a newspaper showing the country's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) shipped weapons to foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists in Syria.
On Wednesday, Istanbul’s 14th Heavy Penal Court handed down the sentence to CHP Deputy Chairman Enis Berberoglu for releasing secret documents with the purpose of political or military espionage.
Berberoglu was arrested in the courthouse after the hearing. He will remain under arrest while waiting for the appeal process to conclude.
CHP spokesman Engin Altay sharply condemned the decision, saying he saw the verdict as an attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to intimidate the opposition.
"This decision is intimidation to the opposition. This decision is intimidation to all who are displeased with the Justice and Development Party (AKP)," Altay told reporters outside the Caglayan Justice Palace in Istanbul.
He said the decision was a sign that the judiciary in Turkey was under the command of government executive organs.
Back in May 2015, Cumhuriyet daily posted on its website footage showing Turkish security forces in early 2014 intercepting a convoy of trucks carrying arms for the militants in Syria.
The paper said the trucks were carrying some 1,000 mortar shells, hundreds of grenade launchers and more than 80,000 rounds of ammunition for light and heavy weapons.
Ankara denied the allegation and claimed that the trucks had been carrying humanitarian aid to Syria. However, Berberoglu defended the video, saying it was genuine.
The incident triggered a huge controversy in Turkey with many bashing the government for explicitly supporting terrorism in neighboring Syria.
Cumhuriyet’s former editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul were among other defendants in the case.
Last year, Dundar and Gul were sentenced to at least five years in jail for revealing what was said to be state secrets. The prosecutor is now seeking an additional 10 years in prison for the two over the report on MIT trucks.
Turkey arrests 78 lawyers in post-coup crackdown
Meanwhile, Turkish forces have arrested 78 lawyers as part of an investigation into suspected links to the movement of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of having orchestrated last year’s failed coup against Erdogan.
A security source, who asked not to be named, said the detentions were carried out across eight provinces.
Istanbul's chief public prosecutor had earlier issued arrest warrants for 189 lawyers on charges of affiliation to Gulen’s movement. Some are also accused of using ByLock encrypted messaging application for communication with fellow opposition members.
Also on Wednesday, a Turkish court sentenced Aydin Sefa Akay (shown in the picture above), a top judge attached to the UN's Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, to seven years and six months in jail on charges of links to the failed July 15 coup.
The court also placed an overseas travel ban on Akay, effectively making his cooperation with the UN courts system impossible.
He was released pending the ruling from the Supreme Appeals Court.
Turkey witnessed a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, when a faction of the Turkish military declared that the government of Erdogan was no more in charge of the country.
A few hours later, however, the coup was suppressed. Almost 250 people were killed and nearly 2,200 others wounded in the abortive coup.
Gulen has censured the coup attempt and strongly denied any involvement in it.
Turkey, which remains in a state of emergency since the coup, has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups, who were believed to have played a role in the failed putsch.
Over 40,000 people have been arrested and more than 120,000 others sacked or suspended from a wide range of professions, including soldiers, police, teachers, and public servants, over alleged links to the failed coup.
Many rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have denounced Ankara’s heavy clampdown.