Turkey jails opposition MP for leaking government's arms-smuggling to jihadists in Syria

An Istanbul court sentenced an opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker to five years and 10 months in jail for "leaking classified material" to a newspaper
Tuesday, 13 February 2018 21:14

A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced parliamentary opposition deputy to a reduced term of five years and 10 months in jail after convicting him of "disclosing government secrets".

Berberoğlu was initially sentenced in June to 25 years for "espionage" on charges he gave an opposition newspaper a video purporting to show Turkey's AKP government trucking weapons into Syria. But a regional appeals court in İstanbul quashed the conviction and in October ordered a retrial.

It is an open secret that since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, with the help of the CIA, AKP government was for many years the main conduit for weapons flowing to terrorist groups, including al-Qaida affiliates, seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.

The trucks owned by Turkey's state intelligence 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.

The government has denied accusations that weapons were sent to Syria, saying the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid.

The video published on the website of the Cumhuriyet daily on May 29, 2015 shows mortar shells in boxes intercepted on a truck destined for Syria.

The case stems from a May 2015 report in the Cumhuriyet suggesting Turkey’s intelligence service had smuggled weapons to Islamist group in Syria a year earlier — which the government denied. Berberoğlu was accused of giving journalists images used in the report.

Following Cumhuriyet’s report in 2015, the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, acknowledged that the trucks belonged to Turkey's state intelligence service, and claimed they were carrying weapons to Turkmen militants.

Yasin Aktay, a deputy head of the AKP, inflamed the debate in 2015 when he said during a campaign visit to the southeastern city of Siirt that the intercepted MİT trucks were heading for the Free Syrian Army terrorist group. While he did not mention the consignment on the trucks, his remark belied claims that it was aid for Syrian Turkmens. His words were also accepted as an admission that the trucks were carrying weapons.