Turkish PM: Visit to convicted commander ‘a human duty’

Turkish PM: Visit to convicted commander ‘a human duty’

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish PM: Visit to convicted commander ‘a human duty’

Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan visited the retired General Ergin Saygun's at the Mehmet Akif Ersoy hospital in Istanbul on Feb. 9. AA photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 13 rejected opposition charges of insincerity over his recent visit to retired General Ergin Saygun, a former senior military officer who was released from prison after undergoing a serious heart operation, describing the visit as “a human duty.”

“This was a human duty. I fulfilled this human duty. Any expectation on my part is out of question,” Erdoğan told reporters, recalling that he had worked together with Saygun during difficult times and highlighting that he could pay a similar visit to any other member of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

“Saygun is a friend of mine with whom I have worked, although he is older than me. I made a visit to the United States along with him and he was among my team at the Oval Office during our famous Nov. 5, 2007 meeting during the [George W.] Bush era,” Erdoğan said. He was referring to the landmark meeting after which Washington agreed to share intelligence with Turkey in its fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and provided clearance for Turkey to enter Iraqi airspace to facilitate cross-border raids on PKK targets.

The Feb. 9 visit sparked a reaction from leaders of both the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu argued that the visit indicated that the prime minister’s conscience was suffering from the injustice committed against hundreds of people currently behind bars on unclear charges as part of the ongoing Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plot cases. Saygun was sentenced to 18 years prison in the Balyoz coup plot trial.

Meanwhile, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli accused Erdoğan of insincerity and suggested that nobody should be surprised if he also visited the Silivri Prison site where defendants in the Ergenekon coup plot case have been jailed.

“Bahçeli’s world and our world are very different. Firstly, Bahçeli should learn the language of sincerity. The lesson given by our nation is obvious, since he failed to learn the language of sincerity,” Erdoğan said, referring to the difference in vote percentages that the two parties received in the June 2011 elections. The AKP got 49.8 percent of the popular votes, while the MHP got 13.2 percent.