One Year Since Coup Attempt, Turkish Opposition Slams Government

Published July 15th, 2017 - 04:30 GMT
Turkey's main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu speaks during a special debate of the General Assembly on the anniversary of the coup attempt (Adem Altan/AFP)
Turkey's main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu speaks during a special debate of the General Assembly on the anniversary of the coup attempt (Adem Altan/AFP)

Turkey's main opposition party leader, during a Saturday special session of parliament to mark one year since a failed coup attempt, slammed the government's failure to prevent the abortive putsch and the ongoing crackdown that resulted.

Kemal Kilicadaroglu, the head of the centre-left People's Republican Party (CHP), took a swipe at the country's leadership by demanding that the officials who allowed the coup plotters to infiltrate "the most sensitive positions of the state" be held to account.

The government blames the coup on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, a one-time ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

His followers were allegedly able to infiltrate the state bureaucracy and military to carry out the coup attempt. Gulen however denies involvement.

Many questions remain about the coup attempt, including understanding who exactly was behind it and when the government was made aware of the plot. Some of the top army officials accused of being plotters deny any links to Gulen.

Kilicadaroglu charged that parliament's efforts to investigate the coup have been hamstrung by - among others - the country's security chiefs.

Speaking with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the gallery, Kilicdaroglu called for a strengthening of democracy and was critical of what he described as a "permanent" state of emergency, allowing the government to rule by decree.

"Justice has been destroyed," he said.

Kilicdaroglu last week held a rally with hundreds of thousands of supporters against the state of emergency and purges, demanding a return to the rule of law. The protest concluded a 400-kilometres "Justice March" from Ankara to Istanbul.

Since the night of the coup, more than 50,000 people are in jail on suspicion of links to Gulen.

The government has since purged about 149,000 people from the civil service and the military using emergency decrees. Among them are thousands of judges and prosecutors. Hundreds of private businesses have also been taken over.

The purges have also extended beyond alleged Gulenists, with dozens of journalists and human rights activists, including the head of Amnesty International's local branch, currently in jail. Pro-Kurdish members of parliament have also been arrested.

Addressing the parliamentary session, Ahmet Yildirim, from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), recalled that the bloc’s leaders are behind bars. He described the state of emergency as “another coup.”

The parliamentary session is part of a series of events, including speeches by Erdogan in Istanbul and Ankara, to mark the anniversary of the coup. The parliament building was attacked on the night of the coup, and Erdogan is expected to address the body later.

The CHP however said they will not attend the after-midnight session after it was revealed that Erdogan, the leader of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), would be the only speaker while the opposition would not be scheduled to speak.

Prayers and Koran readings will also be held. Erdogan will unveil a monument and attend the dawn prayer, the first of Islam's five daily religious services.

The events on the night of the abortive coup left hundreds of people dead, including civilians who took to the streets to confront the putschists.

The government is organizing a "national unity march" at the iconic bridge over the Bosphorus where putschists shot and killed dozens of civilians in Istanbul.

Just after midnight, early Sunday morning, all mosques across Turkey – estimated to number around 90,000 – will simultaneously call out prayers in memory of the events on the night of the failed putsch, when preachers urged citizens to take to the streets.

The United States issued a statement commending the "bravery" of the ordinary citizens who took to the streets on the night of the coup attempt, but also issued a veiled criticism of the situation in Turkey.

"Their actions continue to remind us that the preservation of democracy requires perseverance, tolerance, dissent, and safeguards for fundamental freedoms. Persistent curbs on those fundamental freedoms erode the foundations of democratic society," the US State Department said.


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