CHP MP says criticism of journalist Yanardağ led to his arrest

Main opposition CHP lawmaker Tanrıkulu has stated that “so-called” opposition politicians contributed to the arrest of journalist Merdan Yanardağ without explicitly mentioning any name. Some right-wing İYİ Party politicians strictly objected to Yanardağ who was arrested over his remarks criticizing the contact ban imposed upon jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

This file photo shows CHP MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu

Duvar English

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu on July 1 criticized some “so-called” opposition figures for helping the arrest of journalist Merdan Yanardağ.

Tanrıkulu said during a live Tele1 broadcast that some opposition figures engage in politics “within the boundaries drawn by the Justice and Development Party (AKP).”

“One of the biggest known actors of the opposition (Yanardağ) was taken into custody. (The government) observes the situation over who supports him or not. The so-called opposition has also fueled this arrest process. There are no coincidences behind this. (The opposition) has to plan accordingly. But this does not exist in the opposition. Unfortunately, there is a mess. We are waiting for the borders drawn by the AKP. Unless we are the ones (setting the agenda), we will be compelled to engage in politics within the boundaries drawn by the AKP,” Tanrıkulu said. 

Tanrıkulu noted that the AKP continues its politics through polarization and the government tests all opposition over Merdan Yanardağ. He lastly said the AKP wants to completely disperse the opposition until the 2024 local elections.

During a live broadcast on Tele1, Yanardağ on June 20 said the contact ban and isolation imposed upon Öcalan should be lifted and added that “Abdullah Öcalan is over 70 years old, it has been a long time since he has been in jail, 25 years without interruption. He is the longest serving political prisoner in Turkey. If normal execution laws apply, he should actually be released, in a house arrest etc. The isolation imposed upon Abdullah Öcalan has no place in law. It has to be lifted.”

A Turkish court on June 27 arrested journalist Merdan Yanardağ as part of an investigation on the grounds of “praising the crime and the criminal” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

After his remarks, some nationalist opposition Good (İYİ) Party politicians criticized Yanardağ. 

İYİ Party Spokesperson Kürşad Zorlu said he will not attend any Tele1 broadcast “due to the remarks on lifting of the isolation against the terrorist leader Öcalan.”

İYİ Party Istanbul Lawmaker Buğra Kavuncu said “Accepting the leader of a terrorist organization as an ‘actor’ in any process in Turkey is a great indiscretion and disclosure of complicity. Praising the head of terror is as dangerous as the terror itself. Öcalan is a murderer. He is the leader of the terrorist organization PKK.”

İYİ Party Parliamentary Group Deputy Chair Müsavat Dervişoğlu said “Merdan Yanardağ is the protector of all kinds of lowness that has been done to this great nation from past to present.”

After Yanardağ’s arrest, Chief Advisor to the İYİ Party leader, Turhan Çömez, told Serbestiyet that “It is never acceptable to arrest him just because he defended an idea. This is now an indicator of how much the law has been trampled on in Turkey and what might happen in the future.”

In his testimony, Yanardağ said “I explained that due to an AKP member’s remarks stating that the government is preparing an amnesty, it could end in frustration. I laughed on the show as the main indication that I was being ironic.”

He added “I don't think it's a crime to talk about isolation. Even if it is assumed that it is a crime, I stated that even if a solution process is to be initiated, everyone should know the extent of it. I said, ‘Abdullah Öcalan is used by politicians as a method of politics. If that's the case, lift the isolation, let's find out what he said. Let him talk to his lawyers and his family, and we'll find out,’ (during live broadcast).”

PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has been kept in isolation for 24 years in F Type High-Security Prison on İmralı Island in Bursa. The jailed PKK leader last had a brief phone call with his brother on March 25, 2021. Since the interrupted phone call, no information has been received from Öcalan as well as other prisoners on the island (Hamili Yıldırım, Veysi Aktaş, and Ömer Hayri Konar). Their lawyers have also been prevented from meeting the prisoners.