Turkey’s main opposition leader vowed to press ahead with his “walk for justice” Sunday despite threats from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the secularist Republican People Party (CHP), announced the march from Ankara to Istanbul on Wednesday after a former journalist and current CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoglu was sentenced to 25 years in prison for leaking classified information to a leading newspaper.
On Sunday Kilicdaroglu finished the fourth day of a march that is expected to take nearly a month. His long walk represents by far his biggest challenge to Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian regime since he became the leader of the CHP in 2010.
But Erdogan said Saturday that Kilicdaroglu’s initiative would bring nothing positive for the country and warned the opposition chief “don’t be surprised” if legal proceedings are filed against him.
Both Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag also urged the opposition leader to end his march, with Bozdag accusing Kilicdaroglu of trying to foment opposition to the justice system.
“It is not possible to break the balance of the scales of justice by walking on roads,” he said.
But Kilicdaroglu remained steadfast.
“They want to provoke us, but we will not give in! They want to threaten us with the courts and [Erdogan] calls out the judges, the prosecutors,” said the CHP leader. “We are walking for justice, not against justice.”
March to prison
Kilicdaroglu , 68, has made the word “adalet” or “justice” the slogan of his march, and he has been carrying a placard with the word emblazoned on it.
His 450-kilometer (280-mile) trek is supposed to end at the Maltepe Prison in Istanbul where Berberoglu, the CHP MP, is being held.
Political tensions have risen sharply in Turkey over the past two months – most recently after Erdogan narrowly won a referendum granting him substantially increased authority, which many fear will lead to one-man rule.
But Turkey’s slide into political turmoil already began to accelerate last summer after an apparent coup attempt failed. Kilicdaroglu accused Erdogan of being the “July 20 coup plotter” citing the president’s subsequent crackdown on his political opponents, both real and perceived.
Five days after the failed putsch, Erdogan declared a state of emergency that has seen some 50,000 people arrested and another 100,000 lose their jobs – making it the biggest purge in Turkey’s modern history.
Berberoglu was accused of giving the Cumhuriyet newspaper a video it used as the basis of a May 2015 report that alleged trucks owned by the state intelligence service (MIT) were stopped and found to contain arms and ammunition headed for Syria.
Berberoglu is the first CHP lawmaker to be jailed in the government crackdown, which has seen 11 members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish opposition party jailed.
bik/sms (AFP, Reuters)