Bülent Arınç, a close aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has attracted criticism from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), for seeking the release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş and human rights activist and businessman Osman Kavala from jail.
Arınç, a member of Turkey’s Presidential High Advisory Board, said during a program on Haber Türk TV that Demirtaş and Kavala were behind bars based on poorly drafted and legally weak indictments and should be released.
Demirtaş has been jailed since November 2016, while Kavala has been behind bars since November 2017 on what many say are politically motivated charges. Both Demirtaş and Kavala are still in prison despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which found their arrest unlawful and called for their immediate release.
Melih Gökçek, a former mayor of Ankara from the AKP, questioned Arınç’s loyalty to the AKP over his Thursday remarks, saying: “Arınç demanded freedom for Demirtaş, who protects terrorists and even calls on them to revolt. This does not reflect the views of our president or the AKP. What kind of AKP member are you?”
Former AKP deputy Mehmet Metiner was also critical of Arınç’s remarks and accused him of aiming to sabotage the Public Alliance between the AKP and the MHP.
“[US President-elect] Biden is nice. Demirtaş is good. Everyone should read his book. Kavala is unjustly behind bars. Both Kavala and Demirtaş should immediately be released. KHK [post-coup government decrees] are a disaster. People purged from state positions by KHKs should be reinstated. Who says all this? A top state official. This is sabotage of the Public alliance. What a shame,” tweeted Metiner.
Metiner also criticized Arınç’s support for Biden as well as his objection to the purge of more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs through government decrees in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016.
Yıldıray Çiçek, press advisor to MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, was outraged by Arınç’s remarks, particularly those calling for the release of Demirtaş.
He said asking for the release of “terrorist Demirtaş” was an act of dishonesty because he holds the Kurdish politician responsible for the killing of 53 people in Turkey’s Southeast during street protests in 2014 as well as the death of 793 Turkish military members in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) between 2015 and 2016.
The MHP accuses Demirtaş and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of links to the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US. Demirtaş and the HDP deny any organic links to the PKK.
Demirtaş was the co-chairperson of the HDP when he was arrested.
Referring to Arınç’s promotion of a book written by Demirtaş in prison, titled “Devran,” Çiçek asked Arınç whether he was getting paid for promoting Demirtaş’s book.
On Thursday evening Arınç said he read “Devran” and better understood the agonies experienced by the country’s Kurdish population.
“Perhaps your ideas about Demirtaş will not change, but you will understand what the Kurds have gone through. Your ideas about Kurds might change,” he noted.