Turk­ish op­po­si­tion chief to fin­ish march with mass rally

‘The 450-kilo­me­tre march goal: Jus­tice’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Turkey’s op­po­si­tion leader stepped up his chal­lenge to Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan yes­ter­day when he ad­dresses a mass rally at the end of an al­most one month-long “jus­tice” march from Ankara to Is­tan­bul. Ke­mal Kil­ic­daroglu, the leader of the sec­u­lar Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party (CHP), launched an un­prece­dented 450-kilo­me­tre trek on June 15 in Ankara in protest at the ar­rest of one of his MPs.

Sup­port­ers com­pared the trek with In­dian in­de­pen­dence leader Ma­hatma Gandhi’s fa­mous Salt March of 1930 but the gov­ern­ment has dis­missed it as a both­er­some stunt. Car­ry­ing a sim­ple in­signia em­bla­zoned with the word “Jus­tice” without any party slo­gans, Kil­ic­daroglu ini­ti­ated the march after his party’s law­maker Enis Ber­beroglu, a for­mer jour­nal­ist, was sen­tenced to 25 years in jail on charges of leak­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion to a news­pa­per.

“Why do I walk? This 450-kilo­me­tre march has one goal: Jus­tice,” said the CHP leader, who reached Is­tan­bul on Fri­day and was joined by tens of thou­sands form­ing a vast file along the road de­spite blis­ter­ing heat. “They ask ‘Can we seek jus­tice on the road?’ Yes we can. If there are grave in­jus­tices and il­le­gal­i­ties in your coun­try and if your coun­try’s courts are in­ca­pable of de­liv­er­ing jus­tice, you will stand up and hit the road,” he said in a state­ment to AFP.

“That’s what I am do­ing now. I have one motto: JUS­TICE.” About 50,000 peo­ple have been ar­rested un­der Turkey’s state of emer­gency, imposed after last July’s failed coup, and an­other 100,000 have lost their jobs, in­clud­ing teach­ers, judges, sol­diers and po­lice of­fi­cers. In the lat­est crack­down, Turk­ish po­lice on Wed­nes­day de­tained Amnesty In­ter­na­tional’s Turkey di­rec­tor and other ac­tivists on charges of mem­ber­ship in a ter­ror group, which sparked up­roar among human rights ad­vo­cates.

‘Alone’

Thou­sands of peo­ple are ex­pected to show up for the rally, which could be one of the big­gest op­po­si­tion protests seen in Is­tan­bul since the mass 2013 demon­stra­tions against Er­do­gan’s rule. Kil­ic­daroglu, who will ad­dress his followers in a mass rally near Ber­beroglu’s prison in the Is­tan­bul dis­trict of Maltepe, yes­ter­day walk the fi­nal sec­tion of the march alone. “I will walk to the rally ground alone,” he told re­porters. “I do not want any­thing in the rally apart from (Turk­ish) flags, Jus­tice ban­ners and (Turkey’s founder) Ataturk’s posters,” he said.

The op­po­si­tion chief rested at nights in a car­a­van through­out his jour­ney, and wit­nesses said the 69-year-old was walk­ing quite fast. “He is sur­pris­ingly vig­or­ous,” his party’s Is­tan­bul law­maker Sez­gin Tan­rikulu said. Com­ment­ing on his eat­ing habits, he said Kil­ic­daroglu “never has heavy meals.” The gov­ern­ment has re­garded the jus­tice march with dis­dain. Er­do­gan has ac­cused Kil­ic­daroglu’s party of sid­ing with ter­ror­ism while Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim said Fri­day: “(The march) has started to be­come bor­ing. This should come to an end after the rally.”

Author­i­ties, how­ever, have not im­peded the walk’s progress, with po­lice pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity ev­ery day. Turk­ish po­lice this week de­tained six sus­pected mem­bers of the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group plan­ning a bomb at­tack on the march. But the CHP said it was a rou­tine oper­a­tion, and was not re­lated to the jus­tice march. The leader of the Na­tion­al­ist Move­ment Party, Devlet Bahceli, warned his party sup­port­ers against any provo­ca­tion and said his party’s of­fices on the march route would be closed Satur­day and Sun­day.

MOSUL: A picture shows smoke bil­low­ing fol­low­ing an airstrike by US-led in­ter­na­tional coali­tion forces tar­get­ing Is­lamic State (IS) group in Mosul.—AFP

— AP

IS­TAN­BUL: Some thou­sands of peo­ple fol­low Ke­mal Kil­ic­daroglu, front-cen­ter, the leader of Turkey’s main op­po­si­tion Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party, on his 400-kilo­me­ter ‘March for Jus­tice’, in the out­skirts of Is­tan­bul.

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