AKP dismisses PM Erdoğan’s ‘punching of protester’ as ‘claim’
İZMİRThe ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has defended both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for an incident involving him and a protester during his visit to Soma on May 14 and one of his advisers escorting him, Yusuf Yerkel, who was photographed while kicking a mourner.
AKP spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik said reports about footage showing Erdoğan slapping a mourner inside a supermarket in Soma as he was facing protests were merely “claims.” The footage was widely circulated on social media and harshly condemned by opposition parties.
“By calling Erdoğan rude, a deputy head of the CHP [Republican People’s Party] has been very rude himself. An incident according to which Erdoğan has punched someone in a supermarket has been reported and circulated on social media. But this is a claim,” Çelik said, denying that the images on the video were authentic.
In the footage, several people are heard booing and whistling at Erdoğan, who then appears to single out one protester, telling him to “Come and boo me here to my face.”
But the poor quality of the images and the crowd surrounding Erdoğan makes it difficult to discern the exact circumstances of the incident.
During his press conference, Çelik had a verbal exchange with a reporter, who was insistently asking him about the widely reported video. “No, there are no images. I have watched what you call images. But we don’t give credence to the claims of the hundreds of people that were surrounding Erdoğan. Doing so is up to you,” Çelik said.
After the unidentified person enters a nearby supermarket, Erdoğan is seen following him with his aides and bodyguards. The prime minister’s arm then appears to swing in the entrance of the supermarket amid the scuffle, before he walks from the area along with his security team.
Many social media users suggested that the video shows Erdoğan punching the protester, though it is not clear from the footage whether his fist is actually aimed at someone or whether it was just swung in protest.
Footage subsequently shows Erdoğan’s security team beating a man in a blue shirt.