Turkey opposition protests arrest of MP, vows march to Istanbul


Ankara (AFP)

Thousands of supporters from Turkey's main opposition party took to the streets of Ankara on Thursday to protest the jailing of one of its MPs, vowing to march to his jail in Istanbul.

Former journalist turned Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Enis Berberoglu was sentenced to 25 years' jail on Wednesday for handing secret information to a newspaper.

A dozen lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) -- the third largest party in parliament -- have been arrested under the state of emergency that followed last year's failed coup.

But this is the first time a deputy from the CHP -- the main secular opposition founded by Turkey's first president Mustafa Kemal Ataturk -- has been held.

The CHP is the second largest party in parliament after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who has been accused by critics in the past of not taking a sufficiently tough line against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, joined the protest brandishing a sign saying "justice".

He vowed that he and his supporters would march all the way to Maltepe, on the outskirts of Istanbul, where Berberoglu is being held in jail.

"If there is a price to pay then I will be the first to pay it," said Kilicdaroglu.

"I am going to walk and I am going to walk all the way to Istanbul. And we will continue this march until there is justice in Turkey."

Istanbul is by road some 450 kilometres (280 miles) west of the capital.

Protesters chanted "shoulder to shoulder against fascism" while others held placards urging "justice for arrested MPs".

Hundreds also held a protest at Istanbul's Macka Park on the European side of the city, chanting "we will win through resistance".

Kilicdaroglu and the CHP expressed solidarity with Erdogan in the wake of the July 15, 2016 failed coup against his rule, even meeting the president at his palace.

But tensions have risen since the April 16, 2017 referendum on expanding Erdogan's powers which the president narrowly won but the opposition says was marred by violations.