A life sentence for journalism: A warning for all oppositional forces

A life sentence for journalism: A warning for all oppositional forces

Punishment of Berberoğlu is an attack on all opposition; all forces must see that the target of these attacks is everybody that believes in democracy.

CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Istanbul 14. Court of serious crimes for exposing the National Intelligence Organisation’s exporting of arms to jihadi groups. The sentencing was reduced to 25 years for good conduct!

It is the first time in our country where a journalist has been given a lifelong sentence. 

The official position states that the reason for charging Berberoğlu is for “revealing state secrets” and “military spying” but this is nothing more an effort to make the illegal activities of the government look legal. There is no evidence to suggest that there was any military spying or that a state secret had been revealed. 

IF IT IS A “STATE SECRET” DOES THIS MEAN, THERE WERE WEAPONS IN THE TRUCKS? 

The point in question is the document relating to the “cargo load” which was sent to jihadi groups in Syria.  The state has been claiming that it was a supply of humanitarian aid and not weapons. This in itself is enough to confirm that there is no ground for this case. If the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid and not weapons, then there is no reason for a covert operation and it is not a state secret. As a result, the news article published claiming that it was a load of weapons would be accepted as untrue. It would be recognised that Turkey was supplying humanitarian aid to war victims in Syria. However, if there were weapons in those trucks supplied to Syria, then this is an international crime and is enough to take Turkey to trial in the international courts. And so before we can even discuss whether the story amounts to the revealing of a state secret, we must recognise that if there were weapons then this amounts a breach of international law. This is the point made by the oppositional party, CHP. This is the same point which has been pursued by the leader of the main opposition party and other spokespeople on behalf of the CHP.

Following the arrest of Berberoğlu, the main oppositional party leader Kılıçdaroğlu answered questions on the national TV channel CNN Turk and stated the following: “Do you know why they are scared (referring to the government)? Sooner or later they will be tried. What they have done is an international crime. They were sending weapons which would have been used by Muslims to fight each other. 

If it was a humanitarian aid in those trucks why are they scared? Humanitarian aid is not a state secret. 

He went on to say that “You cannot turn Turkey into a Banana Republic.” Officials are saying that they do not accept that there were weapons in those supply trucks but are also saying that it was stated secret.  

THIS IS A MOVE TO FORCE ALL OPPOSITION INTO SUBMISSION 

The fact that Berberoğlu is a CHP MP, caused a stir amongst the CHP.  The spokesperson for CHP said that the arrest and conviction of Berberoğu is aimed at “punishing the CHP and silencing the party”.
The newspapers also view the arrest and passing of a “life sentence” as a way of “threatening journalists that are still reporting the truth, and as a representation of their intention to silence the media as a whole”. And both views are of course correct. Because, Berberoğlu is an experienced journalist, who is well known in the public and an Istanbul MP. For this reason, nobody with a conscience will accept the arrest and imprisonment given to Berberoğlu –  it is evident that through Enis Berberoğlu’s treatment Erdoğan and the AKP government seeks to silence and force other journalists and the media insisting on reporting the truth into submission. 

In response to the harsh sentence passed in Enis Berberoğlu’s case, the CHP parliamentary group reacted by walking out of parliament and the CHP central committee held an extraordinary meeting at which they agreed; 

The leader of the party, Kılıçdaroğlu staged a protest holding a Justice placard in which he walks from Ankara to Istanbul.
CHP local area teams will take action to publicly show their reaction, including by taking to the streets. 

In line with this call from the central committee, the CHP Istanbul office protested by setting up a “democracy watch” at Macka park. 

A JOINT STRUGGLE IS A RESPONSIBILITY THAT CANNOT BE DELAYED

It is important for the call from the CHP and these protests to receive widespread support. We will see in the days to come how these calls will come to life in local areas and the government’s response to these protests. What is clear however is that, at this stage, no amount of harsh words or “tough statements” will get us anywhere. Even if the court was more or less fair, starting proceedings against a journalist in such a case would have still been a scandal, but then for that court to pass a life sentence and arrest the journalist and MP (who has attended every hearing without fail) for fear that he will “abscond”, makes it clear that there is nothing more to say on the matter. Yes, in this country, the co-leaders of the third largest party, the HDP, have been arrested; MPs are being detained every day and a special effort is being made to push the HDP outside of the political arena.  But these must not be a reason for us to watch as a journalist MP is given a life sentence for a news story and is arrested on the spot (with no necessity to do so), and certainly, should not lead us to simply accept that “these things happen in our country”. Moreover, the arrest and punishment of Berberoğlu should not be excused on the basis that without the support of the CHP the AKP-MHP motion in parliament to remove the immunity of MPs would not have been passed in the first place. 

Conversely, the same politics which seeks to force into submission the Kurdish journalists, politicians and the democratic forces in Turkey, and which is seeking to silence newspapers, magazines and TV stations by closing them down is being extended to cover the CHP too. And this happening in the toughest way!

CHP has taken the above-mentioned decision in the face of the attacks it is facing. However, it is clear that without a broader strategy for struggling to block the political trajectory towards a “one man one regime” (i.e. without a strategy which brings all progressive democratic forces together in a joint struggle) then these reactions will achieve very little.   

For this reason, we must see that the punishment of Berberoğlu is an attack on all opposition; all forces must see that the target of these attacks is everybody that believes in democracy in Turkey and we must not use superficial excuses to delay moving towards a genuine joint struggle.  

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