Gov’t crippling democracy, CHP head says at İzmir rally

Gov’t crippling democracy, CHP head says at İzmir rally

Gov’t crippling democracy, CHP head says at İzmir rally

The crowd that packed İzmir’s Gündoğan Square for the main opposition party’s rally yesterday chanted slogans against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). DHA photo

Turkey’s main opposition leader charged yesterday that the government had seriously crippled Turkish democracy as thousands denounced the continued imprisonment of lawmakers and a massive probe into the municipality of İzmir at a rally in the Aegean city.

“Today we have a government that is descending on us as a nightmare, a government which is usurping our freedoms, eavesdropping on our phones and holding the judiciary under its command,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told a cheering crowd that packed İzmir’s Gündoğdu Square.

“Everybody now sees that democracy in Turkey is defective, wounded and flawed,” he said. “In what democracy a Parliament member is being prosecuted for criticizing the government? In what democracy university youths are held in prison for 18 months for demanding free education?”

The CHP organized the rally after it announced last week it was stepping up a campaign for the release of eight jailed lawmakers, among them two CHP members and began submitting draft amendments to Parliament as part of an “urgent democracy package.”

The crowd chanted slogans against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and brandished banners that read “You are not alone” in reference to Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal, who won parliamentary seats on the CHP ticket in the June 12 elections. They have been awaiting trial in prison for more than two years on charges of involvement in plots to overthrow the government. Overriding precedents, the courts have refused to release them following their election on grounds they may flee or destroy evidence.

“I’m calling on the judges who have become the AKP’s domain and are acting as the AKP’s own judges: Everybody must come to their senses and carry out their duties honorably. The day will come when they will be held to account,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

He denounced also a large-scale corruption investigation into the CHP-held İzmir municipality, charging that the AKP held a “special grudge” toward the city, a CHP stronghold and intended to take over its local administration.

“İzmir will become a grave for those who are against freedom, justice and the Republic. İzmir is spoiling their dreams. İzmir is upsetting their balance,” he said. “They’ve seen there is no hope for them from İzmir [voters] and have now pinned their hope on prosecutors.”

Earlier in the day, Kılıçdaroğlu visited İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu in his office, accompanied by party aides and lawmakers.