Defecting AKP deputies may face witch-hunt arrests, columnist says

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Meral Akşener says she will announce the new party by late October.

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies who might defect to a new political party expected be founded by former Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Meral Akşener may be arrested over links to the Gülen movement, daily Sözcü columnist Can Ataklı wrote on Monday.

Akşener recently announced that a new political party that is to be “neither right, nor left” would be formed under her leadership by late October.

Ataklı wrote in his column on Monday that his news source from Ankara said: “For this party [Akşener’s party] to be successful, they have to persuade deputies from the AKP. Why is [Turkish President and AKP Chair Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan harshly criticizing his party recently? He wants to prevent defections. Secret negotiations are being held. Those who want to leave are being told: ‘Leave of your own will and be quiet; otherwise, you will be jailed on charges of FETÖ [a derogatory term used by government circles to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement] and will not be released’.”

Erdoğan recently signaled a large-scale shakeup in the party before preparations are launched for the 2019 presidential elections and addressed the need for rejuvenation in his party, asking members not sharing the same commitments to step down.

Following Erdoğan’s remarks about the need for renewal, the Ağrı, Hakkari, Şırnak, Muş and Aksaray provincial chairmen resigned from their posts.

“In such circumstances, anybody trying to defect to the new party from the AKP might be arrested as a FETÖ member. Tell me what one can do under these conditions. Everybody is trying to save their lives,” added the news source.

After adopting a critical stance against MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli and standing as a candidate for party leadership against him, Akşener was expelled by the MHP disciplinary committee in September 2016 by unanimous vote.

A total of 625 members of the MHP Kocaeli and Bursa provincial branches have resigned to join former Akşener.

In the wake of a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others, the government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement and launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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