Turkey’s main opposition leader accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan today of staging a “second coup” with the crackdown that followed last July’s failed coup, as he presses on with a protest march to Istanbul from Ankara. Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu called the march after former journalist turned CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoglu was sentenced to 25 years in jail on Wednesday for leaking classified information to a newspaper.
In his biggest challenge yet to the authorities, the leader of Turkey’s second-largest party is marching to the prison in the Istanbul district of Maltepe where Berberoglu is being held, inviting supporters to accompany him.
Kilicdaroglu said the “second coup” came when Erdogan declared a state of emergency on July 20 that has since seen about 50,000 people arrested and over 100,000 lose their jobs. “The results (of July 15) were used to make the second coup on July 20,” Kilicdaroglu told AFP on the second day of his 450-kilometre trek to Istanbul.
The initial three-month state of emergency has since been renewed three times, amplifying concerns about human rights in the country. The CHP leader, dressed in a shirt, baseball hat and sport shoes, said the march was a challenge to injustice and was needed “because there is no independent judiciary”.
“The judiciary largely await instructions from Erdogan and they give decisions based on these instructions,” he said, as supporters brandished placards with a single word, “justice”. Security forces often clamp down on protests in Ankara and Istanbul, but Kilicdaroglu’s march has taken place unhindered so far, albeit with heavy security.
Kilicdaroglu said he did not believe the government would have the “courage” to stop the march or detain him “because the march is within the limits of the law”. But he warned: “If detentions or arrests happen, there would be heavy consequences.”
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim today criticised Kilicdaroglu’s actions, saying justice “cannot be found on the streets” and “we must respect courts’ decisions even if we don’t like them”. Berberoglu’s case, which sparked the march, relates to the 2015 publication by the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper of images purportedly showing the Turkish intelligence service seeking to transport arms over the border to Syria.