Former Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, now a member of the Presidential High Advisory Board, on Nov. 23 said that he was “very offended” by the remarks of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after he was slammed by the president for criticizing the jailing of philanthropist Osman Kavala and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş.
“I am an emotional person. Yesterday's speech has offended me a lot. The president made a very harsh speech. There are rumors that I resigned, but for now this is not true. I would not resign from Twitter or Instagram like others,” Arınç said, in a not-so-veiled reference to former Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who earlier in November announced his resignation on his Instagram account.
Arınç made the comments to journalist Murat Çelik from daily Posta.
On Nov. 22, Erdoğan dismissed Arınç's calls for the release of Kavala and Demirtaş. "Where we stand is clear. There are no changes in our course," Erdoğan told members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Without naming Arınç personally, Erdoğan accused the former deputy prime minister of trying to cause trouble within the party "via using our emphasis on reforms as an excuse."
"We see that trouble is being tried to be caused by using our emphasis on our reform agenda as an excuse through some personal statements that are absolutely not related to us. No one's personal statements can be linked to our government and party even if we worked together in the past," Erdoğan said.
Arınç said that he was waiting to meet with Erdoğan to clarify the issue. “I found out that the president was today in Istanbul. He has a busy schedule, so I could not meet with him today. I think he will be in Ankara tomorrow and I hope that we will be able to meet. I will do whatever is necessary after I meet with him,” he said.
“In these circumstances, I would like to hear from him personally why he felt the need to make that speech. After hearing it from him, I can say, 'I was the addressee of that speech. Under these circumstances, here is my resignation letter,'” Arınç said.
Despite previous court orders for their release, Demirtaş has been in prison for more than four years while Kavala, accused of helping organize the attempted coup, has been jailed for more than three years.
If convicted, Demirtaş faces up to 142 years in jail on terrorism charges. Kavala, now jailed on espionage charges related to the 2016 failed coup, was earlier acquitted from charges related to the anti-government Gezi Park Protests in 2013.
Erdoğan said that "those who caused the deaths of thousands of people can never be defended" by his comrades, reiterating his accusations that Demirtaş is linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
On Kavala, Erdoğan said, "We can never be the defender of those who financed Gezi Protests. We can stand with Kavala."
"We reject attempts to causing trouble. We ask you to be careful against them as well," he told AKP members.
Erdoğan's remarks came after Arınç criticized the continued imprisonment of Demirtaş and Kavala, calling on judges not to rule for arrest unless it is an “exceptional” situation. "Demirtaş might be released...Osman Kavala needs to be released," Arınç said on Nov. 19.