Turkey’s former Prime Minister Davutoglu denies keeping silent against Erdogan

Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who has been criticized for previous acquiescence to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told the T24 news portal on Tuesday that he had always voiced his thoughts against Erdogan when he was in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“I have been criticized for staying silent and for not criticizing [Erdogan’s policies] during my tenures as a minister and later prime minister. That is not true. I stated my opinion on every issue, from the Gezi [protests] to December 17 [corruption] cases,” Davutoglu, the leader of the newly-formed Future Party (FP), said.

On December 17, 2013, police raids, as part of a graft probe, targeted senior members of the Erdogan-led AKP government. Erdogan labeled the probe a judicial coup.

Davutoglu claimed that he succeeded in changing Erdogan’s mind on some issues but could not on others.

“I tried to take Mr. Tayyip [Erdogan] to Taksim [neighborhood] and to get him in touch with the youth [in the Gezi Park protests]. [However,] I could not persuade [him],” the FP leader added.

In the summer of 2013, the Gezi demonstrations began with a small group of people as a protest against the urban development plan for Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul, a city with minimal green space.

Later, the protests quickly spread across the country, where protesters besieged a number of government buildings. Erdogan labels the Gezi protesters as terrorists.

Hundreds of demonstrators have been tried and convicted of a host of charges, including trying to overthrow the AKP government, opposing the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations, damaging public property, and resisting a police officer.

Regarding the December 17 corruption cases, Erdogan’s ally-turned-rival said he was in favor of the trial of four accused AKP ministers, Muammer Guler, Zafer Caglayan, Erdogan Bayraktar, and Egemen Bagis, at the Supreme Court.

The then-PM Davutoglu claimed that he had made the ministers agree on announcing that they would voluntarily be tired before the high court. However, the president stopped them from doing that.

For Davutoglu, Erdogan’s act was one of the most critical breaking points between the two leaders.

The investigation into the involvement of the ministers was denied at the Turkish Parliament, and they were acquitted. Further, all the judicial cases about others, including the sons of the three ministers, were closed in time by newly assigned prosecutors in the country.

Erdogan described the investigations as a “coup attempt” by the Fetullah Gulen Movement, claiming that the movement infiltrated the judiciary and had taken on the form of a “parallel state.”

The FP leader also mentioned another incident where he found himself at odds with Erdogan in 2016, when thousands of staff from Turkish universities, called the Academics for Peace, signed a declaration that called for the end of violence in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish-populated southeastern provinces.

Erdogan targeted the academics and labeled them terrorist supporters.

Hundreds of the peace academics have been put on trial on charges of ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organization’ or ‘degrading the state of the Republic of Turkey,” after signing the petition.

Later, thousands of them were dismissed from their jobs through state-of-emergency decrees issued by the government during the two-year emergency rule that followed a failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

“Mr. Tayyip [Erdogan] rebuked me, saying ‘why do not you take a tougher line against this declaration, [instead] you almost advocate the terrorists [academics].’ [At the time], I told him that the academics cannot be called terrorists, and his act [call] was, in fact, against the freedom of thought and expression,” Davutoglu said.

Davutoglu, AKP’s one of the founding members, was eventually forced to resign as prime minister in 2016. However, he had, as prime minister, supported Erdogan’s bid to switch the country’s system of government to an executive presidency. Until recently, he refrained from criticizing the Erdogan regime.

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