Turkish Opposition Member Receives 25-year Sentence for Leaking That Turkey Sent Weapons to Syrian Rebels

CHP member Berberoglu was accused of providing information to a leading newspaper showing intelligence services allegedly shipped weapons and ammunition to rebel forces in 2014

 Turkish Cumhuriyet Daily newspaper's Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul (R), flanked by and former main opposition Republican People's Party MP Enis Berberoglu, as he talks to the media after his trial at Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul.
OZAN KOSE/AFP

A Turkish court on Wednesday handed down a 25-year jail sentence to a legislator from the country's main opposition party, after he was found guilty of leaking information to a media outlet showing Turkey was sending weapons to Syrian rebels.

Enis Berberoglu, from the Center-left People's Republican Party (CHP), was arrested in Istanbul following the court ruling, broadcaster NTV reported. 
He lost his parliamentary immunity last year, when a government-sponsored bill stripped the protection from 138 legislators, mostly from the opposition. 
Berberoglu was accused of leaking the information - showing a truck belonging to the intelligence service allegedly shipping weapons and ammunition in 2014 - to Cumhuriyet newspaper, which published a story in 2015.

CHP spokesman Ergin Altay sharply condemned the decision, telling reporters he saw the verdict as an attempt by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to intimidate the opposition.

Cumhuriyet itself has been under intense pressure - more than a dozen of its journalists and executives have been in jail for more than six months awaiting trial - while former editor-in-chief Can Dundar, the main reporter on the weapons report story, lives in exile in Europe. 

Erdogan has since admitted that Turkey sent weapons to Syrian rebel factions. While Erdogan is staunchly supportive of Syrian groups - including Islamist factions - fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces, some domestic opposition parties have been more skeptical about his policy in Syria.

Among the concerns of the secular opposition groups in Turkey is whether Turkish actions are contributing to the rise of Islamism. 
Increasingly, hardline militants, some with links to al-Qaeda, control Idlib province - the main chunk of territory still run by rebels in northern Syria - which lies along Turkey's border.

Jailing of opposition members has focused recently on the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which has 11 legislators behind bars. Thousands of HDP members are also jailed, allegedly for links to terrorism.
Berberoglu becomes the first CHP front bencher to be arrested under the ongoing crackdown in the country, which intensified in July last year after a faction in the military attempted a coup. 

Since then, more than 50,000 people have been jailed, including dozens of journalists. Recently, the head of Amnesty International in Turkey was arrested.

There is an ongoing strict state of emergency, which grants the government sweeping powers to rule by decree.