CHP MP’s arrest was last straw, Turkey’s main opposition leader says during ‘justice congress’
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu speaks during his party's 'justice congress.'
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Aug. 26 launched its “justice congress” in the western province of Çanakkale, planning to hold workshops, panels and discussions on Turkey’s current justice record.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu addressed the participants at the start of the congress, saying that the party “doesn’t want tensions or fights, but rather searches for justice.”
“We want to live peacefully in our country. We want a fair Turkey,” Kılıçdaroğlu said early on Aug. 26, as the crowds chanted “Rights, Law, Justice.”
The CHP previously carried out a “justice march” and a “justice rally” after its Istanbul deputy Enis Berberoğlu was sentenced to 25 years in prison on June 14 on charges of providing daily Cumhuriyet with video purporting to show Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) trucks heading to Syria.
'The last straw'
In his speech in Çanakkale, Kılıçdaroğlu said that Berberoğlu’s arrest “was the last straw” for the party, adding that Turkey experienced “two different July 15s.”
“The people of this country shouldn’t forget that there are two July 15s. In the first one people resisted against the coup attempt. We honor our veterans and martyrs,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to the 250 people killed and more than 2,000 wounded during the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.
“There is also the July 15 of the [Presidential] Palace. What we oppose is that July 15. We oppose those who made another coup on July 20,” he said, referring to the date that the state of emergency was issued in Turkey.
Thousands of people have been suspended and dismissed from their posts with the state of emergency decrees ever since.
“A civilian coup was realized for the first time. People without any sins suffered. Thousands of academics were dismissed. Prisons are full of journalists. We won’t forget these realities. Lawmakers are in jail. The arrest of Berberoğlu, who has no guilt at all, was the last straw for us. And we walked. We walked from Ankara to Istanbul. We walked for rights, law and justice,” he also said, referring to the “justice march” that was kicked off on June 15 in Ankara.
'73 percent doesn't believe that justice exists in Turkey'
Saying that 80 million people in Turkey are thirsty for justice, Kılıçdaroğlu noted that 73 percent of those asked whether they believe there is justice in Turkey replied by saying “no.”
“Not one person, but 80 million people are thirsty for justice in Turkey. A poll was carried out. The citizens were asked, ‘When you go to the courthouse for a certain reason, do you believe that a just decision will be made regarding yourself?’ Some 19 percent of those asked said ‘yes.’ 73 percent said, ‘No, there is no justice in this country.’ The ratio of the participants that didn’t state their views was 8 percent. At least 80 percent of this society is telling us that there is no justice in this country,” he also said.
During his speech, Kılıçdaroğlu repeatedly slammed the state of emergency decrees.
“Think about it, the number of children in jails with their mothers is 668. These children need to play games and they have the right to see their fathers. One needs to ask if this is justice. Think about it, you are an academic. You wake up one morning and realize that you’ve been dismissed with a state of emergency decree. You want to seek justice, but there is no institution that you can apply. Because they ban you from seeking your rights,” he said.
The main opposition leader also criticized jailing educators Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who have been on hunger strikes for over 170 days demanding to be reinstated to their posts which they lost with emergency decrees.
“They declared them as ‘terrorists.’ They are on a hunger strike, but they are imprisoned. How can you not remember Nuriye and Semih? Is this justice?” he also said.
'Issue new rulings'
In his speech, Kılıçdaroğlu urged the Constitutional Court to “reconsider” their rulings regarding the lawmakers in jail.
“The Constitutional Court previously said that ‘a lawmaker can be tried, but can’t be arrested.’ Regardless of that, a lot of lawmakers are in jail today. Because the rulings depend on the palace. I’m calling on the head and members of the Constitutional Court; If you are really judges, reconsider your rulings and issue new ones immediately,” he said.
Saying that the CHP “won’t surrender to the oppressor,” Kılıçdaroğlu noted that some of the journalists were arrested just because they were called by people using the smartphone application ByLock, used almost exclusively by Gülenists.
“They are saying that journalists are arrested over using ByLock when in fact they have no connection to FETÖ [Fethullahist Terrosist Organization]. More than 150 journalists are in jails. You can’t talk about democracy,” he added.
Kılıçdaroğlu also claimed that those who have money can walk around freely even if their links to FETÖ are established.
“If you are the son-in-law of someone and if you can buy whatever you want, then you can travel outside freely. That’s why there is no justice in Turkey. Those who used their power and gave money were freed. However, there are our citizens who are jailed just because they are opponents,” he said.
During his speech, Kılıçdaroğlu accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of “not being patriotic.”
“Think about it, the person who governs the state tells FETÖ, ‘What is it that you asked for and we didn’t give you?’ They asked for schools, they got it. They asked for governors, they were given governors. They asked for generals and they gave them generals. So you gave FETÖ everything it wanted. You are not patriotic,” he said.
'No politics over identities'
Moreover, the main opposition leader said that the party will look at everything from the perspective of “rights, law and justice.”
“We will definitely make sure that the judiciary becomes independent. Judiciary will distribute justice. We will provide media freedom together. Journalists will be able to write freely. We will make sure that there is the freedom of religion and conscience,” he also said.
Saying that politics shouldn’t be a part of the army, mosques or courthouses, Kılıçdaroğlu noted that the party won’t carry out politics over identities or faiths.
“Hence, we will leave all the elements that create tensions and create divisions in the society out of politics,” he added.
The congress will bring together more than 700 speakers in eight main panels on justice in courts, daily life, education, religion, media, election and livelihood until Aug. 30. The first topic to be discussed at the congress is set to be “justice in courts.”
Similar to the “justice march” and “justice rally,” no political party flags or banners are allowed at the congress, with only Turkish flags being allowed to be displayed.