CHP leader Kilicdaroglu says days-long march from Ankara to Istanbul was ‘for justice’
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader said Sunday that their days-long march was “not an end but a beginning” of their search for justice.
was addressing a rally in Istanbul’s Maltepe district, which came on the final day of a 450-km (280-mile) march from Ankara to Istanbul protesting a judicial decision against one of his fellow party lawmakers.
“We walked for justice that we lack. We walked for the right of the oppressed, the jailed deputies and journalists,” Kilicdaroglu said.
The march was launched on June 15 by CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu following the imprisonment of CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoglu, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Berberoglu was convicted of revealing state secrets by passing images to the Cumhuriyet newspaper concerning the search of National Intelligence Organization (MIT) trucks en route to Syria in January 2014. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison
Kilicdaroglu vowed to bring “a first-class democracy” to the country and promised that “everybody would be able to express their views freely”.
“We want justice for everyone,” he added.
Tens of thousands of protestors chanted justice slogans and carried Turkish flags, as well as banners which read “justice” and posters of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who is the founder of the Turkish Republic.
“We disapprove anyone who brings or opens banners other than these. We consider provocateurs those who do it,” Kilicdaroglu had stressed. He said he did not also want the CHP flag at the meeting.
The CHP leader also expressed his gratitude to all who “supported the march” and thanked the police, which he said made every effort to ensure a safe march from the very beginning.
“We made the world’s most peaceful march and protest in the world,” he said.
Earlier on Sunday, Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin said 15,000 police officers were deployed to safeguard the CHP rally in the city’s Maltepe district, which is home to the prison where Berberoglu is being held.
Senior figures in the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party have criticized the CHP-led march, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said it was a march “for terrorists and for their supporters”.
Judiciary in Turkey independent: Erdogan
In an interview with the German daily Die Zeit last week, Mr. Erdogan insisted that the judiciary in Turkey is independent and defended the widespread arrests, saying many of those detained, including journalists, face terrorism charges.
“If it turns out that they are innocent, the judiciary will release them,” he said. “But if they are guilty, the judiciary will rule accordingly.”
Supporters of the C.H.P. said they welcomed the call for action. “I am really happy that finally we have heard that this is the beginning, and from the street,” Ogun Gidisoglu said. Referring to Mr. Kilicdaroglu, he said, “He has unleashed us.”
But some said they feared that the success of the march would lead to arrests of their leaders in coming days.
Mahmut Tanal, a senior C.H.P. member of Parliament and a member of the parliamentary human rights commission, said it was a risk they were prepared for. “I am one of their targets,” he said. “If they try and arrest me, I will welcome them.”
“Our aim was to raise awareness and serve a wake-up call for justice,” Mr. Tanal said. “I think we have succeeded.”