Turkish police arrest ruling party member, eight others after opposition chief attack

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, center, chairman of the Republican People’s Party, is protected by bodyguards after he was attacked by protesters on April 21, 2019. (Demiroren News Agency/AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019

Turkish police arrest ruling party member, eight others after opposition chief attack

  • Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was assaulted on Sunday as he attended a funeral in Ankara
  • A video of the attack showed the CHP leader being mobbed and punched

ISTANBUL: Turkish police on Monday arrested nine people, including a member of the ruling AKP party, after a mob attack on opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu that sparked widespread criticism.
Kilicdaroglu, 70, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was assaulted on Sunday in a crowd as he attended a funeral in Ankara for a soldier killed fighting Kurdish militants in the southeast.
The attack came days after the opposition CHP won Ankara and Istanbul from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP in March 31 local elections, seen as a major setback for the ruling party after a decade-and-a-half in power.
A video of Sunday’s attack showed the CHP leader being mobbed and punched, then chanting crowds surrounded a house where he was taken for his protection. The images went viral on social media.
CHP leaders blamed Erdogan’s AKP for provoking the attack and demanded those detained be held accountable. They called for the interior minister to resign over the incident.
“This is not an ordinary attack, this is not an ordinary provocation. This is planned,” CHP Istanbul chief Canan Kaftancioglu told several thousands of supporters at a rally from the top of a bus.
The crowds chanted slogans “Shoulder to shoulder against Fascism,” and waved banners reading: “Are you so scared by the CHP’s success?” in reference to the AKP’s loss of Istanbul and Ankara.
During campaigning for the local polls, Erdogan often accused Kilicdaroglu and the CHP of backing the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and showed videos of the opposition leader at his rallies.
Kilicdaroglu was not badly injured in the assault.
The chief suspect in Sunday’s attack, identified only by his initials O.S., was arrested in Sivrihisar in central Anatolia and was being taken to Ankara, private NTV television reported.
The AKP later identified him as Osman Sarigun and said he was a party member who would face expulsion.
“AKP is against any form of violence... There is no room for violence in democratic politics,” AKP spokesman Omer Celik said on Twitter.
Eight other people have also been detained, officials said.
Speaking to AFP, the CHP’s Kaftancioglu welcomed the move to expel the suspect but said the problem was about the polarization of Turkish society.
“The situation will not change with one person’s dismissal unless the mentality encouraging attackers by polarizing society changes,” she said.
Erdogan had presented the local elections as a matter of national survival. He campaigned heavily even though he was not running in the election himself.
For his supporters, Erdogan is the strong leader Turkey needs to deal with its security threats and is a voice for more religiously conservative Turks.
Critics say Erdogan has stoked divisions by branding foes as enemies of the state and has undermined the rule of law with a broad crackdown on dissent.
The AKP has won every election since coming to power 17 years ago, but voters appeared to punish the party in major cities in this ballot as the economy slid into recession after a currency crisis last year.
Electoral authorities have given the CHP candidates their mandates for the Istanbul and Ankara mayor posts, but Erdogan’s AKP is seeking a re-run of the Istanbul vote, citing irregularities.
The CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu won the Istanbul race by a very tight margin after two weeks of recounts.
The CHP held Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu responsible for “provocation” after he said last year he had ordered governors not to allow CHP members to join soldiers’ funerals.
Soylu ruled out any “outside provocation” in the incident, and said the main culprit was a relative of the dead soldier.


Tunisians emerge from lockdown into mosques and cafes

Updated 4 min 50 sec ago

Tunisians emerge from lockdown into mosques and cafes

  • Schools will stay closed to most students until the start of the new academic year in September
  • The government still restricts social gatherings at homes and urges the wearing of masks

TUNIS: Tunisians returned to mosques and cafes on Thursday as the country ended most lockdown restrictions after largely containing the spread of the novel coronavirus for now.
Sitting with friends at the Brazil coffeeshop in the Ibn Khaldoun district of Tunis, schoolteacher Nizar Jamal said he was glad to resume his daily chats with friends.
“We are again breathing the air of life. We missed the smell of coffee a lot,” he said.
Tunisia in March closed its international borders, stopped all movement between towns and cities, shuttered mosques, shops, schools, cafes and restaurants, imposed a nightly curfew and stopped people leaving homes at day for most reasons.
It has recorded 1,048 cases of the coronavirus and 48 deaths, compared with nearly 10,000 cases in neighboring Algeria. The only recent cases came from people arriving into quarantine from abroad.
Schools will stay closed to most students until the start of the new academic year in September and the government still restricts social gatherings at homes and urges the wearing of masks. International borders will reopen fully in late June.
In another Tunis district, Menzah 9, a cafe owner who gave only his first name, Mahmoud, said he was relieved to have reopened.
“This cafe provides work for 20 families. We have suffered a lot from stopping work for three months and we hope to make up for it soon,” he said.
Tunisia’s government has announced compensation measures to help businesses and needy families with the economic effects of the lockdown and has agreed a package of financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund.