Main opposition CHP leader sets out on 450 km march for ‘justice’
REUTERS photoMain opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu commenced a 450 km march from Ankara to Istanbul on June 15 in protest at the detention of CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu, while the party has started protests in all 81 provinces of Turkey.
“We do not want any journalists or any lawmakers to be in jail in our country,” Kılıçdaroğlu said at Ankara’s central Güvenpark as he set out to walk to Istanbul in protest at the imprisonment of Berberoğlu.
“We are facing a dictatorial [regime]. We don’t want to live in a country where there is no justice. We are saying enough is enough. That’s why we are starting our march. If there is a price to be paid, I will pay it,” he added, holding a banner bearing the word “justice.”
The protest decision was taken after CHP Istanbul deputy Berberoğlu was sentenced 25 years in prison on June 14 for “leaking state secrets” in the case into weapons-loaded Syria-bound trucks of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), prompting a storm of reaction from the CHP.
Kılıçdaroğlu is set to march over 24 days to Istanbul, a distance of around 450 km, to the city’s Maltepe Prison where Berberoğlu was taken. He will walk during the days and stop at locations on the way.
“This is a holy march. Justice, justice and justice. This march is not about a political party, it is about justice,” Kılıçdaroğlu said on arrival at his starting point, Güvenpark, where thousands had gathered in support of the protest.
Amid thousands of supporters, Kılıçdaroğlu was escorted by his family, CHP lawmakers and CHP members on the first day.
After around 20 km of walking he stopped at Batıkent, the suburban district of Ankara, to spend the night.
“There is no democracy in Turkey. But our march is a festival. Actually we are looking for justice and we are not worried,” the CHP leader said.
Security measures around Ankara
Following Kılıçdaroğlu’s statement, police in Ankara began taking measures at the entrance of the park in order to frisk participants. Many roads were closed to traffic by police and riot police teams were deployed around the park.
The Ankara Governor’s Office stated that only a “reasonable number” of participants will be allowed to attend the walk within the city in order to guarantee traffic order and the security of the participants. Those who will continue to walk after leaving the city limits will have to wear a special arm-band or vests, it added.
CHP meetings around Turkey
Along with Kılıçdaroğlu’s march, CHP district organizations in Turkey’s 81 provinces are also organizing protests under the simple slogan “Justice.” In many cities people gathered and marched in support of the walk from Ankara to Istanbul.
Parliamentary group meeting to be held on the road
As Kılıçdaroğlu will be on the march on June 20, a Tuesday, when parliamentary group meetings are held every week, CHP Deputy Parliamentary Group Leader Özgür Özel said the party would hold the weekly meeting “wherever Kılıçdaroğlu is.”
“Our leader will preside over the group meeting on the way, no matter what kilometer of the road he is on on Tuesday,” Özel said.
He added that the main opposition party’s judicial work will be conducted by 24 lawmakers at parliament.