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Main opposition leader demands justice for arrested Turkey intellectuals

Kemal Kilicdaoglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has asked why numerous intellectuals of Turkey are currently in prison and has demanded justice for them, according to a report by Gazete Duvar news website on Tuesday.

Speaking during his party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara on Tuesday,
Kilicdaroglu questioned why a number of politicians, businessmen, and journalists are currently behind bars.

Stressing that “nobody in Turkey has the safety of life and property,” he listed names of some of the arrested intellectuals and claimed that they are being kept in jail unlawfully.

“Why are Eren Erdem and Osman Kavala in prison?” the main opposition leader
asked.

Former CHP Deputy Erdem was arrested on 29 June 2018 over terrorism charges, and businessman Kavala was arrested on 1 November 2017 on charges that include trying to overthrow the government of then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The indictment against Kavala states that he organized and financed the Gezi Park protests, which began with a small group of people against the urban development plan for Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul and spread across Turkey in the summer of 2013.

“Sirri Sureyya Onder is a prominent intellectual in the political arena, as well as a politician. Why is such an important intellectual behind bars? Ahmet Altan, Nazli Ilicak and Selahattin Demirtas – on what grounds are they being imprisoned?” Kilicdaroglu asked.

In December 2018, Turkey approved prison sentences for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party’s (HDP) former Co-Chair Demirtas and former Deputy Onder.

Demirtas received four years and eight months in prison while Onder was sentenced to three years and six months on terrorism-related charges.

The Turkish government believes the HDP has links to the outlawed Kurdistan
Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been fighting for self-rule in the predominantly Kurdish region southeast of Turkey since 1984 that, and is regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey.

Kilicdaroglu argued that it is inconsistent to allow Demirtas to run for office during the 2018 presidential elections and still, keep him behind bars.

“If this person can become the president, then what is he doing in jail? We want justice, not just for ourselves but for everybody else too,” he stressed.

Journalist Altan and Ilicak were sentenced to life in jail over a number of charges that included being a member of the Gulen movement that the Turkish government deems a terrorist organization.

The government has accused Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Muslim cleric who leads the Gulen group, and his followers, of orchestrating the failed military coup of July 15, 2016, that targeted President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The movement strongly denies coup-related accusations or links to any terror activities.

The CHP leader also mentioned the trial of Canan Kaftancioglu, the party’s leader in Istanbul, where she faces up to 17 years in prison due to her tweets from six years ago.

The indictment claims that she allegedly insulted the president and the state, publicly provoked hatred and hostility, and created propaganda for a terrorist organization through her posts.

“They say: ‘Are you the one who won [the elections]? Then come to the court.’ Where is justice?” the CHP leader said, implying that the trial was politically-motivated to intimidate the opposition following its recent victory in Istanbul’s mayoral rerun.

“And then they say they will make a judicial reform soon. We’ll see the law draft they will present and then decide whether it is actually reform or not,” Kilicdaroglu indicated, referring to the package of judicial reforms unveiled by Erdogan at the end of May.

The package, which is composed mainly of nine aims divided into 63 more specific objectives and 256 actions, aims to strengthen democracy, rights, freedoms, and improve the functioning of the judicial system.

It also promises to enhance freedom of expression in Turkey as part of the country’s bid to join the European Union.

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