Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has praised the excessive force used by police officers in the southern province of Adana on Sunday against members of a religious group, saying the officers did their job properly, Turkish media outlets reported.
Riot police in Adana sparked outrage when they employed batons, plastic bullets and pepper spray in what many said was a disproportionate use of force to disperse members of the anti-government Furkan Foundation who wanted to hold a peaceful demonstration in Seyhan in protest of the continued pretrial detention of eight foundation members who were arrested in January.
Video footage circulating on social media showed police officers randomly hitting the protestors, which included women and children, with their batons.
“The Turkish police did their job. I congratulate our police force. I kiss the foreheads of the Adana police officers [a sign of appreciation in Turkish culture],” Bahçeli said at a meeting of his party in parliament on Tuesday.
The MHP leader said the remarks of Furkan Foundation President Alparslan Kuytul targeting Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu are baseless and that Soylu is a noble person as the meaning of his surname suggests in Turkish.
Kuytul held Soylu responsible for the violence against his followers and said it was impossible to exercise freedom of expression in a country whose interior minister is Soylu.
Amid growing criticism, Soylu announced on Sunday evening that an investigation had been launched into the police officers who used “disproportionate force” against Furkan members in Adana.
“Using disproportionate force should not have been our way of handling this,” he said, while accusing Furkan members of holding an illegal protest and getting involved in acts of provocation against the police.
Many said the disproportionate use of force against Furkan members in Adana on Sunday had to with their anti-government stance and violated Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution, which says, “Everyone has the right to organize unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstrations without permission” and was tantamount to torture.
There were claims that the police officers who used violence against the Furkan protestors in Adana were mostly affiliated with the MHP.
The MHP is an election ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).