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Party leaders slam release of opposition politician’s attackers

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Opposition party leaders have condemned the release of five men who attacked Selçuk Özdağ, deputy chairman of the opposition Gelecek (Future) Party, in front of his house in Ankara, local media reported on Friday.

Defendants Abdurrahman Gülseren, Berke Aygün, Gülahmet Türk, Kadir Hukanoğlu and Muhammet Raşit Gürsoy, who face up to 14 years in prison on charges that include “willful injury,” were released by the Ankara 9th High Criminal Court on Friday, after prosecutor Fatih Taş demanded their release.

Gelecek Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu immediately took to social media and condemned the court’s decision, describing it as “an attack on democracy.”

Davutoğlu, a former heavyweight in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), parted ways with the AKP and established the rival Gelecek Party in December 2019. Özdağ is also a former AKP deputy.

“Five suspects who attempted to kill Selçuk Özdağ in the middle of the street were quietly released [by an Ankara court] on a Friday night. This is not only an attack on our party, but also on our democracy,” Davutoğlu tweeted, urging political parties, nongovernmental organizations and the Turkish people to stand with them in solidarity.

“This order, which allows crimes to go unpunished and encourages mafia trash, not only targets politicians, nongovernmental organizations and our children, but Turkey as a whole as well as our democracy,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted.

“No matter the cost, democracy will be [fully] established in this country, and no crime will go unpunished,” the CHP leader added.

“Politics draws its strength from words. When you drown them by way of violence, there can be no legitimate politics or democracy,” Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) leader Ali Babacan said, adding that releasing people who attack politicians back into the streets was equivalent to an attack on the public peace.

Referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener said: “Those who aren’t eloquent resort to insults, just like those who aren’t good at politics resort to lawlessness. … When the elections take place, our nation will hold them to account for all of this, and democracy will win.”

The attack on Özdağ took place in front of his house in Ankara in mid-January as he left home to go to a mosque for Friday prayers. The politician, who sustained injuries to his hands and head, was taken to a hospital following the attack. Photos released on Turkish media at the time showed a bloodied Özdağ receiving emergency treatment at an Ankara hospital.

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