Turkey’s deputy PM condemns adviser’s kick, but denies PM’s slap during Soma visit

Turkey’s deputy PM condemns adviser’s kick, but denies PM’s slap during Soma visit

Turkey’s deputy PM condemns adviser’s kick, but denies PM’s slap during Soma visit

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç speaks following a Cabinet meeting on May 21. AA Photo

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has condemned a top adviser for attacking a mourner in the wake of the country’s worst ever mining disaster but denied claims that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slapped a protester on the same day.

Images of Erdoğan’s adviser Yusuf Yerkel repeatedly kicking a demonstrator as he was held down by two security officers sparked a nationwide backlash against the government. “It is a very catastrophic incident,” Arınç said of Yerkel’s actions after a weekly Cabinet meeting. “I am not in a position to defend it, whoever he is.”

It was revealed that Yerkel even obtained a medical report due to injuries sustained to the leg that he used to kick a mourner in Soma. Arınç described Yerkel’s medical leave as “tragicomic.”

“If there was a scuffle, a fight with the other person and he was injured as a result, this would be a judicial matter. But the content of the medical report leaves no discussion as it clearly states that the injury happened after [the kicking],” Arınç said.

Arınç’s remarks contradicted the initial comments made by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman Hüseyin Çelik, who claimed that Yerkel was attacked first.

Yerkel, who was accompanying Erdoğan during his eventful visit to Soma on May 14, denounced “provocations and insults” in his first remarks after the photograph went viral on social media and was widely covered by the foreign press.

Special forces had captured the protester after he kicked an official car belonging to the convoy of the prime minister. Yerkel, who saw the scene as he was reportedly preparing to take a seat in the car assigned to him, ran at the protester and kicked him three or four times.

No slap in Soma supermarket

Other footage also emerged after Erdoğan’s visit, showing the prime minister involved in a scuffle as he was entering a supermarket in Soma. Arınç admitted that Erdoğan had faced protests, but rejected claims that he slapped anyone as some of the videos seemed to suggest.

“The prime minister went up to those who were telling him to resign. ‘Here, I come to submit my resignation to you. Why would I resign?’ he asked. The women felt embarrassed. But people next to them made some remarks. I hear the prime minister saying, ‘Why would I be a murderer?’ I saw some aggressive people there,” Arınç said, adding that the group then entered the supermarket.

“I remained a little behind, but as far as I could see and hear, our prime minister didn’t punch anybody. The person who claimed he had been [slapped] changed his account four times. How can you trust this?” Arınç said.

Many social media users suggested that the video shows Erdoğan “slapping” the protester after grabbing him by the neck. However, it is difficult to discern from the footage whether Erdoğan just swung his arm or intentionally slapped the protester.