Turkey arrests former opposition MP on terrorism charges

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A picture taken on January 12, 2017 shows former Republican Peoples Party (CHP) lawmaker Eren Erdem as he makes a speech at the Turkish parliament. Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Eren Erdem, seen here in 2017, was a parliamentary member of Turkey’s main opposition party

Turkey has arrested a main opposition politician, Eren Erdem, on terrorism-related charges, state media say.

Mr Erdem was jailed on Friday ahead of his September trial, just days after losing his parliamentary seat with the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) in elections on 24 June.

He is charged with aiding the group blamed for the 2016 attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Mr Erdem, 31, has not commented on the charges but confirmed his detention.

In a tweet in the early hours of Friday, Mr Erdem said (in Turkish): “I have been detained. I don’t know the reason. I was detained by police outside my home.”

Istanbul prosecutors are charging him with assisting the followers of the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies orchestrating the failed 2016 putsch.

In elections on Sunday, President Erdogan won a new five-year term with increased executive powers and his conservative AK Party and its nationalist allies secured a parliamentary majority.

Mr Erdem is accused of publishing illegal wiretappings, allegedly of Mr Erdogan who was premier at the time and other senior officials, when he was the editor of opposition newspaper Karsi in 2014.

The government denounced the publication, which related to a 2013 corruption scandal, as “an attempted coup” orchestrated by Mr Gulen.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Activists say the media has been particularly hard hit by Turkey’s post-coup crackdown

The former lawmaker had already been barred from leaving Turkey due to the investigation, and now faces between nine and a half to 22 years in jail if found guilty.

CHP politician Baris Yarkadas said his colleague had been arrested as part of an attempt to fabricate links between the party and terrorism.

Pointing out that Mr Erdem was a journalist, he said, “Journalism is not a crime.”

Since July 2016, tens of thousands of people have been arrested over suspected links to Mr Gulen, as well as Kurdish militants waging an insurgency in the south-east.

Mr Erdem is the second CHP politician to be jailed after Enis Berberoglu was sentenced to 25 years in prison for leaking “secret information” to a newspaper.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Enis Berberoglu’s imprisonment sparked political protests in 2017

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