Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has defended the radical Islamist Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) after the party announced its support for the ruling People’s Alliance.
In a written statement on March 26, Bahçeli claimed that HÜDA-PAR is not linked to the militant Islamist group Hizbullah.
“It has been stated that the Free Cause Party has no connection or links to any terror organization, and this has been expressed by its addressees,” Bahçeli said.
“No clear relationship, persuading or authenticating information between Hizbullah terror organization and Free Cause Party has been so far come across to,” he said.
Calling on former Interior Minister Sadettin Tantan to shed light on the matter, Bahçeli said that Hizbullah members were “neuralized in extensive operations conducted on Jan. 17, 2000.”
Shortly after these remarks, Tantan refuted Bahçeli’s remarks, by saying: “We are today going through a period in which a flock of murderers has turned into a political party…How can Bahçeli digest HÜDA-PAR’s discriminatory party policies that are against the principles of the republic?”
Tantan, who served as the Interior Minister between 1999-2001, made the comments to the online news outlet Diken.
Tantan said that although the majority of Hizbullah members were caught and stood trial during his time as the Interior Minister, many of them were released, while several others served only half of their sentences.
“(During my time as Interior Minister) Thanks to the works of the police and gendarmerie teams, the majority of Hizbullah members were caught and handed to the judiciary. However, due to the legal regulations that this government enacted over time, although court records showed Hizbullah members as saying ‘We killed,’ we have witnessed them being released. The sentences of some of them were cut in half. These happened although the defendants admitted having committed the crimes,” Tantan said.
Tantan made similar remarks to Sözcü TV on March 26, by saying: “Of course there is a relationship between HÜDA-PAR and Hizbullah. There is no need to list the names one by one…I do not think that he (Bahçeli) believes what he said. I am of the opinion that he said it with the anxiety of getting into parliament again (in elections)."
Hizbullah, which killed scores of people in the late 1980s and early 1990s, targeted mostly Kurds in Turkey's southeast region during fighting between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Following a clash with police during a raid in Istanbul on Jan. 17, 2000, Hizbullah adopted a low-key profile and changed tactics to survive the clampdown.
It has started to reorganize itself quietly under a number of foundations, associations and other entities. Several members of the group have established the HÜDA-PAR political party in December 2012 with the support of the current government, which green-lighted the party's entry into politics.
On March 24, HÜDA-PAR, although not officially part of the ruling People’s Alliance, announced that they will run in the general elections under the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deputy list.