Gül’s call on freedoms nets opposition praise

Gül’s call on freedoms nets opposition praise

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Gül’s call on freedoms nets opposition praise

Turkish President Gül delivers his speech during the opening ceremony of the Parliament as Prime Minister Erdoğan and other Cabinet ministers listen. A rift between political allies, Gül and Erdoğan, appears over the situation of jailed deputies. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

President Abdullah Gül has voiced criticism of a number of government policies ranging from foreign policy to problems in freedom of speech and the situation of jailed deputies, with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu congratulating Gül for his words.

“If there are shortcomings, or wrong practices, or instances that harm our democracy, then these must all be removed without delay. There should be no doubt or concerns in anyone’s mind that Turkey is a democratic state respecting the rule of law. We should not allow efforts in domestic and international public opinion to unfairly cast a shadow over achievements in this area,” Gül said yesterday in his address to Parliament at the start of the new legislative year.

Stressing that Parliament should “represent the full range of colors and views,” Gül said that issue of jailed deputies was “a flaw in this picture.” “I would like to point out the absence of some parliamentarians who have been elected to this legislative assembly. It is my belief that everyone who has legally participated in the country’s elections, voted for by the people and winning the right to carry the title of member of Parliament, should be a part of the legislative activities of this assembly until a final judgment has been passed,” Gül told lawmakers.

BDP members’ immunity
He also implied that he was against lifting the immunities of nine lawmakers from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), who were seen embracing and warmly chatting with outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants near Şemdinli in the southeastern province of Hakkari in August. Nonetheless, the president sent a clear message to the BDP lawmakers that embracing PKK militants was unacceptable: “There is no democracy on the face of the earth that tolerates embracing, extolling or legitimizing terrorism.”

Gül also said journalists should face no obstacle in fulfilling their responsibility of informing the public, a thinly-veiled criticism of the ruling AKP which barred a number of dissident newspapers from following its congress over the weekend. “No one should be imprisoned for expressing their views through the media,” he said.

Commenting on Gül’s remarks in the wake of his speech, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he did not agree with Gül on the issue of jailed deputies. “I don’t want to enter into an argument with our president. We do not share this opinion,” Erdoğan told reporters.

For his part, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu expressed his gratitude and congratulated Gül for his remarks on the issue.

In the foreign policy sphere, Turkey’s national interests must always be paramount, Gül said, adding that “potential side effects of policies should always be carefully examined.” Referring to the EU bid, the president said Turkey should be determined in taking the correct steps forward.

PM defiant on media VETO

Despite harsh criticism, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday defended his decision to bar some dissident media outlets from attending his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) key congress on Sept. 30.

“I do not have to invite those who always insult [the AKP] and who show us disrespect to a special occasion of ours like this. That’s why we didn’t invite them. It’s as simple as this,” Erdoğan said when questioned about the indirect censorship his decision caused.

“I’m extremely clear. I’m not in a defense whatsoever here,” Erdoğan said. Seven dailies were barred from accreditation for covering the convention.