Main opposition’s Ince denies veteran journalist’s claim he met Erdogan privately

Muharrem Ince, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate in the 2018 presidential election has strongly denied claims that he met privately with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The claim was asserted by Rahmi Turan, a well-known Turkish journalist writing for the critical Sozcu daily.

Turan said this week that a senior official from the CHP had secretly met Erdogan at the Presidential Palace in the capital Ankara on November 9.

He further claimed that Erdogan told the official to assume leadership of the  CHP  “for the security of Turkey” and that the president promised he will help him in the process.

The journalist, who has not revealed the name of the official in his columns, late on Friday answered questions of the Sozcu daily in a phone call from London, where he is currently receiving treatment for an illness.

Turan told Sozcu that the main opposition member that he was talking about in his columns was Ince.

But Ince has since strongly denied the allegation.

Ince’s first reaction to the claim was sent in a text message to Baris Yarkadas, a CHP member and a journalist, who was a guest on a CNN Turk program at the time.

“If they can prove with documents that such a secret meeting took place, I would burn myself alive in [Istanbul’s] Taksim [Square],” Ince said in the message read by Yarkadas during the program.

He made further commented on Twitter saying that the claim was made as part of an operation to trigger intraparty opposition in CHP.

“The allegations have nothing to do with me. … But since you gave my name in public, I expect you to also share with Turkey all the documents and evidence you have on the issue,” Ince said addressing Turan.

He added that the main opposition CHP cannot let this issue pass by.

“They should either start disciplinary proceedings against me or take the issue to court,” Ince suggested.

Erdogan also strongly rejected the claims of a secret meeting between him and a senior CHP official. However, the leader of the main opposition party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, confirmed it.

Ince first stood for election as CHP chairman against Kilicdaroglu in September 2014 following the party’s loss in the Turkish presidential election on 18 August 2014 and for a second time later in February 2018.

Turan was asked, later on, to disclose the name of his source in a live phone call during the same TV program on CNN Turk.

Refusing to do that on the grounds that it would be a shameful move for a journalist to reveal his source, he only said it was another journalist whom he has known for over 20 years and who is not currently active in the occupation.

Turan repeatedly underlined that it was not him who asserted the claim, but another journalist who can easily receive information from those in presidential circles.

“What Ince said is [probably] true and the statements of President Erdogan also reflect the truth. What more do you want me to say? This means that the information I have given [about Ince and Erdogan] is false, I’m the one who is wrong here,” he further confessed.

“I regret that I have trusted my source. … Everybody makes mistakes and my mistake is this. I will do whatever is necessary [to fix this situation],” the journalist said in a live phone call during another TV program on the same night.

Burcu Karakas, an independent investigative journalist based in Istanbul, criticized Turan for using a fellow journalist as a source.

“Introduction to journalism: A journalist cannot be the source of another journalist. So what is not the right way to do journalism? This way,” Karakas argued in a tweet.

A veteran Turkish journalist and a columnist for the Sozcu daily, Ugur Dundar, indicated that he was also asked to report on the issue by the same source, but he refused to cover the allegation since it was baseless.

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