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Turkey arrests former opposition lawmaker on terrorism charges

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A former lawmaker from Turkey’s opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Eren Erdem (Photo by Turkish-language Hurriyet newspaper)

A Turkish court has ordered the arrest of a former lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) on several charges, including aiding a movement led by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Ankara government accuses of having masterminded the July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Friday, a court in Istanbul took the decision against Eren Erdem shortly after he was detained in capital Ankara following a warrant issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on charges of “being a member of a terrorist organization.”

Prosecutors are seeking a jail sentence of up to 22 years for Erdem.

He faces charges connected to reports in the Karşı daily, where he had been editor-in-chief and published stories linked to the Gulenist Terror Group (FETO).

Erdem is also charged with violating the confidentiality of an investigation, membership in an armed group and exposing the identity of a secret witness.

He reportedly tried to leave Turkey after his party failed to re-nominate him for parliament in the June 24 general elections, and he lost his immunity from prosecution.

Former Deputy Chairman of Turkey’s opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Enis Berberoglu

Erdem is the second CHP politician to be jailed after Enis Berberoglu, who was sentenced 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 June 14, 2017, Istanbul’s 14th Heavy Penal Court handed down the sentence to Berberoglu for releasing secret documents with the purpose of political or military espionage.

Berberoglu was arrested in the courthouse after the hearing.

Back in May 2015, the 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.

A still image grabbed from a video published on the website of the Turkish-language Cumhuriyet daily on May 29, 2015 shows mortar shells in boxes intercepted on a truck destined for Syria.

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.

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.

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