Bülent Arınç, an aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has announced his resignation as a member of the Presidential High Advisory Board (YİK) after Erdoğan criticized his remarks calling for the release of political prisoners Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala from prison.
In a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday, Arınç said he handed in his resignation to Erdoğan and that the president had accepted it.
Arınç said his remarks about Demirtaş and Kavala were taken out of context and that some people went as far as to accuse him of supporting a terrorist organization. He said his comments were actually aimed at the need for judicial reform in the country, as recently announced by the government, and he wanted to resign in order to prevent the debate over his remarks from putting the country’s reform process in danger.
In a televised statement on Nov. 19, Arınç said Kurdish politician Demirtaş and businessman and human rights activist Kavala were behind bars based on poorly drafted and legally weak indictments and should be released.
Responding to Arınç’s statement on Sunday, Erdoğan refused to lend him support, saying his government’s recently announced plans to make fresh economic and judicial reforms had prompted some to set “new fires of evil.”
“I am an emotional person. The speech [by the president] yesterday [on Sunday] greatly offended me. The esteemed president made a very harsh speech,” said Arınç.
His remarks came during an interview with journalist Murat Çelik from the Posta daily early on Monday.
Arınç gave the first signs of his resignation to Çelik, saying he would make up his mind after meeting with Erdoğan.
Arınç’s remarks also attracted harsh criticism from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the election ally of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as they see Demirtaş as a “terrorist.”
In a speech at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said it is an act of stupidity for someone who is a former politician and a member of the YİK to make remarks praising Kavala and Demirtaş.
Erdoğan’s disapproval of Arınç’s remarks and his acceptance of Arınç’s resignation are seen as moves aimed at not losing the support of the MHP.
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.