Several thousand people took to the streets of Turkey’s two biggest cities on Thursday to protest against a 25-year prison sentence handed down to an opposition lawmaker on spying charges.
A court sentenced Enis Berberoglu, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on charges of military espionage on Wednesday. It alleged he gave an opposition newspaper a video purporting to show Turkey’s intelligence agency trucking weapons into Syria.
He is the first lawmaker from the secular CHP to be jailed in a government crackdown that followed last July’s failed coup. More than 50,000 people have been imprisoned and over 150,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs.
Carrying banners that read “Justice”, and waving Turkish flags, crowds demonstrated as CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu started a 425 kilometer (265 mile) march from the capital Ankara to the Istanbul jail where Berberoglu is being held.
Kilicdaroglu has called the arrest lawless and motivated by the presidential palace, a reference to President Tayyip Erdogan. “Our march will continue until there is justice in this country,” Kilicdaroglu told reporters before setting off.
Crowds gathered at a park in the capital to see him off and to protest Berberoglu’s imprisonment.