| ANKARA, June 15
ANKARA, June 15 Several thousand Turkish
protesters marched in the capital Ankara on Thursday to
demonstrate against the 25-year prison sentence handed down to
an opposition lawmaker on spying charges.
A court on Wednesday sentenced Enis Berberoglu, a lawmaker
from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) on
charges of giving an opposition newspaper a video purporting to
show Turkey's intelligence agency trucking weapons into Syria.
Berberoglu is the first lawmaker from the secular CHP to be
jailed since the government crackdown that followed last year's
failed coup. More than 50,000 people have been jailed and more
than 150,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in the
aftermath of the July 15 attempted putsch.
The leader of the CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has called the
decision lawless and politically motivated. On Thursday, he
launched a 425 kilometre (265 mile) march from Ankara to the
Istanbul jail where Berberoglu is being detained. Party
officials said they expect the walk could take the 68-year-old
politician at least 20 days.
"Erdogan is waving his fingers at everyone who is against
him," said Nuran, a retired teacher who declined to give her
surname. "The arrest was made to send a message but we are not
afraid. We will resist until they jail every single one of us."
She was among the crowds that packed into the central Ankara
park where Kilicdaroglu started his march. Many people held
banners, waved Turkish flags and wore t-shirts emblazoned with
the word "Justice". Others carried posters of Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk, the secular founder of modern Turkey, and the CHP.
Police imposed tight security measures at the site of the
protest on Thursday morning, setting up security barriers and
sealing off nearby roads and carrying out searches with bomb
disposal teams and dogs. Water cannons and armoured police
vehicles waited nearby the park.
"Our march will continue until there is justice in this
country," Kilicdaroglu told reporters before heading for the
Turkey currently has 160 journalists imprisoned according to
Turkish journalists union and has also jailed eleven lawmakers
over terror charges. It has also shut down 130 media outlets
following last July's failed coup.
The government says such measures are necessary, given the
vast security threats it is facing. Rights groups and some of
Turkey's Western allies have voiced concern at the scope of the
crackdown, decrying what they say is growing authoritarianism.
(Writing by Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by David