Two appearing in viral ‘secularism’ video arrested in Istanbul
ISTANBULTwo people who appeared in a viral video in which a man called for secularism in the Okmeydanı district of Istanbul were arrested on Jan. 3 on charges of “openly provoking people to hatred and enmity.”
Ayşegül Başar and Hamit Dışkaya were arrested after giving a speech in a teahouse, protesting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attack on Istanbul’s Reina nightclub that killed 39 people.
Official sources have claimed that Başar’s arrest was not linked to her appearance in the video but her previous social media postings that praised the killing of a prosecutor by outlawed far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) militants.
Mehmet Selim Kiraz, the prosecutor in the controversial case into the killing of Gezi victim Berkin Elvan, was killed after being taken hostage by two DHKP-C militants in Istanbul on March 31, 2015. The militants were then killed in a shootout with police.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has slammed the decision to arrest Başar and Dışkaya, saying the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) believes that “defending Turkey’s constitution is a crime.”
“Defending the constitution is seen as a crime by the AKP government. For what reason did you arrest the young people defending secularism? If it’s a crime to defend the constitution, then the president and the government also committed a crime by swearing on it,” Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted late on Jan. 3.
Başar reportedly said in her defense testimony that the coffee house speech had intended to “raise awareness.”
“We are the children of that neighborhood. There is nothing that would incite hatred and enmity in the speech. It only mentions secularism, which is the basis of our constitution,” she said.