CHP leader under fire from within for honoring controversial journalists
DHA photoRepublican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has touched off controversy within his party after honoring arrested journalists who were arrested after the July 15 coup attempt but who were alleged to have aided the infamous Ergenekon and “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) plots, but the party head defended his position, saying it was the CHP’s principle to oppose the imprisonment of any journalist.
“It is impossible to find it right to reward and applaud such people by considering them as respected,” Deniz Baykal, the party’s former leader and a current Antalya deputy for the CHP, stated in a televised interview on CNN Türk on Dec. 5.
“The CHP has almost no red line on any topic anymore,” CHP Bursa lawmaker Tanju Özcan told state-run Anadolu Agency on Dec. 5.
The CHP lawmakers’ criticisms came after Kılıçdaroğlu read out the names of journalists who were arrested in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt during a Dec. 3 rally in Adana, during which he asked supporters to respond by shouting “present.”
Kılıçdaroğlu defended himself, indicating that it was the party’s principle to oppose the imprisonment of any journalist.
“A party, a person should have principles. What is our principle? No journalist should be imprisoned. It is not possible to say that a journalist should not be imprisoned if he/she is defending what I defend, and should be imprisoned when he/she is not,” Kılıçdaroğlu stated on Dec. 6, in Diyarbakır.
“I do not want 146 journalists to be in jail. It is a shame for Turkey in an international arena,” he added.
Along with arrested daily Cumhuriyet journalists and writers, the CHP leader included Nazlı Ilıcak, Mehmet Altan, Ahmet Altan, Şahin Alpay and Ali Bulaç on his roll call of jailed journalists, causing outrage among some CHP lawmakers and supporters since they were accused of cheerleading the Ergenekon and Balyoz cases, which were allegedly prosecuted by members of the judiciary from the Gülenist movement.
Baykal said some of the journalists on the list had published fabricated evidence during the Ergenekon case process.
“Some of the names [on the list] were architects of the Ergenekon process. They were the active element of a great conspiracy that made it possible for everyone to believe the fabricated evidence by adopting, polishing and publishing it without any convincing evidence,” he said.
Baykal said Turkey was on the verge of a very important historical decision and was facing important problems regarding constitutional amendments, including the shift to a presidential system, and that the CHP had to tackle the problem.
‘CHP leader does not pay attention to sensitivities’
“I think that Mr. CHP leader wanted to demonstrate the resistance to disproportionate arrests ... I see that understand and respect it,” Baykal said.
“But the leader has done this without paying attention, without making a distinction between journalists, and probably not while considering that society would show this kind of sensitivity,” he said.
“It is a serious problem and a problem in front of this party. We have to consider it all together,” he added.
CHP council member Mehmet Ali Çelebi reacted to the incident by recalling ill soldiers who committed suicide after they were accused in the Ergenekon case.
“We will continue to be the voice … of Ali Tatar, Murat Özenalp and Cem Çakmak,” he said on his Twitter account on Dec. 5. “Altan and Ilıcak have no place in the front for the republic and democracy.”
‘Enemies of the regime’
Echoing Baykal, Özcan also slammed Kılıçdaroğlu for including Ilıcak, Altan and Bulaç. “They are the enemies of the regime, the republic and the CHP,” he said.
“I suppose Ali Bulaç was also surprised. Even that man, who has been hostile to the republic and has been trying to dissuade people from the republic, did not understand why his name was read in Adana rally and applauded by CHP supporters,” he added.
Özcan said the incident was creating false perceptions about the CHP, making it appear to be an ally of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) one day and the ally of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) on the other.
“That was the last straw for me. From now on, the CHP has reached a state where it has no clear position on any situation and no ability to manage any crisis as it sways from side to side,” he said.
“We have been harmed in every crisis because of our incoherent attitude. Now the biggest crisis is at the door: the presidential system. We haven’t been able to manage any crisis until today, and I cannot see any indication that we can manage the greatest crisis now,” he said.
‘Baykal’s tone is condescending, and we do not approve’
CHP group deputy chairman Özgür Özel criticized Baykal, stating that Kılıçdaroğlu was underlining the problem of freedom of the press.
“We are standing against unjust treatment, not defending people. The issue is freedom of press,” Özel said in parliament on Dec. 6, adding that they did not approve of any lawmaker publicly criticizing the party’s leader in such a condescending tone.
“I would like to state that we condemn and do not approve the lawmaker’s criticisms made in front of the press in a dose and tone by which the leader of the party would be humiliated,” he said, while adding that a disciplinary process was unlikely.