Turkish prosecutor seeks jail for opposition politician over espionage in state media

Polls show support for the opposition party founded in March 2020 while support for Erdogan and his AK Party are at multi-year lows.

A Turkish flag, with the New and the Suleymaniye mosques in the background, flies on a passenger ferry in Istanbul, Turkey, April 11, 2019. (photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)
A Turkish flag, with the New and the Suleymaniye mosques in the background, flies on a passenger ferry in Istanbul, Turkey, April 11, 2019.
(photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)

A Turkish prosecutor is seeking a jail term of up to 20 years for Metin Gurcan, a founder of the Turkish opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), over military and political espionage, state media said on Thursday.

In late November Gurcan was jailed pending trial over his contacts with foreign diplomats based in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Gurcan, a retired member of the Turkish Armed Forces, helped establish DEVA with Ali Babacan, a former deputy prime minister and current minister, under President Tayyip Erdogan. Gurcan is also a defense analyst.

In an indictment, the Ankara Chief Prosecutor's Office accused Gurcan of obtaining confidential documents with the aim of political or military espionage, state-owned Anadolu Agency said on Wednesday.

The indictment, which needs to be approved by a court, says it was determined that Gurcan held meetings with foreign state officials and includes photos of the meetings, Anadolu added.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S. (credit: REUTERS)Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S. (credit: REUTERS)

Babacan has said Gurcan's work is based on open sources and he does not have access to state secrets.

He has also said Gurcan's detention was an attempt at diverting attention from the country's economic crisis, marked by the currency plunging to all-time lows.

The lira lost 44% of its value last year, which sent inflation soaring in December to 36%, the highest under Erdogan's 19-year-old rule.

Polls show support for DEVA, founded in March 2020, around 2%, while support for Erdogan and his AK Party are at multi-year lows. Turks have cited economic mismanagement among their main concerns.

DEVA and other opposition parties have called for urgent elections due to what they say is poor management of the economy, but the government has said presidential and general elections would be held as scheduled in June 2023.