Turkey main opposition leader to end ‘March for Justice’ with a rally

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FILE PHOTO: Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu walks during a protest, dubbed
FILE
PHOTO: Turkey’s main opposition CHP leader Kilicdaroglu walks
during a protest against the detention of his party’s lawmaker
Berberoglu, on outskirts of Ankara

Thomson Reuters

ISTANBUL (AP) — The leader of the main opposition party in Turkey
was set to complete the final stretch of a 25-day “March for
Justice” from the capital Ankara to Istanbul Sunday. Hundreds of
thousands have already gathered for a rally marking the end of
the march.

Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu launched the
450-kilometer (280-mile) march after a parliamentarian from his
party was imprisoned in June. The march has since grown to
protest a massive crackdown on people with alleged links to
terror groups that began after a failed coup attempt last summer.

“If only there was no need for this march and there was
democracy, media freedoms, if civic society groups could freely
express their opinions,” Kilicdaroglu told The Associated Press
as he headed Friday toward the end of his marathon march.

Once seen as feeble in his role as opposition leader,
Kilicdaroglu has emerged as the voice of many Turks and been
likened to India’s Mahatma Gandhi, who led a nonviolent march
against British colonial practices.

Tens of thousands of people have joined Kilicdaroglu throughout
his march in scorching heat, chanting “rights, law, justice.”

Organizers say the march expresses “a collective, nonpartisan
desire for an independent and fair judicial system” that they
claim is lacking in Turkey.

The government has accused Kilicdaroglu of supporting terrorist
groups through his protest. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has
said he is violating the law by attempting to influence the
judiciary.

Turkey’s definition of supporting terror is so broad that it has
caused an impasse in the country’s bid for European Union
membership.


Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu walks during the 19th day of a protest, dubbed
Turkey’s
main opposition CHP leader Kilicdaroglu walks during the 19th day
of a protest, dubbed “justice march”, against the detention of
the party’s lawmaker Enis Berberoglu, near
Kocaeli

Thomson
Reuters


Parliament member Enis Berberoglu was sentenced last month to 25
years in prison for revealing state secrets for allegedly leaking
footage to an opposition newspaper suggesting that Turkey’s
intelligence service had smuggled weapons to Islamist rebels in
Syria.

In a New York Times op-ed Friday, Kilicdaroglu called the case
against Berberoglu “the last straw in a series of antidemocratic
moves” by Erdogan’s government “targeting tens of thousands of
Turkish citizens — politicians, journalists, academics, activists
or ordinary citizens.”

Following last year’s failed coup, the government imposed a state
of emergency leading to the arrest of more than 50,000 people and
the dismissal of some 100,000 civil servants. A dozen lawmakers
from the pro-Kurdish opposition party have also been jailed.

Ordinary citizens, sacked public employees and high-profile
figures have joined Kilicdaroglu on his march. Novelist Asli
Erdogan and leading Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk, both released
from jail pending trial on various terror-related charges, as
well as Yonca Sik, the wife of a prominent journalist currently
in prison, were just a few.

Kilicdaroglu plans to walk the final three kilometers (1.9 miles)
alone.

Istanbul governor Vasip Sahin said 15,000 police officers have
been dispatched for security. The U.S. Consulate issued a
security message asking American citizens to exercise caution as
“terrorists have targeted political rallies in the past, and that
demonstrations and large events intended to be peaceful can turn
confrontational and escalate into violence.”



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