PM ERDOĞAN IS THE BIGGEST "SEPARATIST," SAYS TURKISH OPPOSITION CHIEF
The entire country is in a state of emergency and the prime minister is functioning as the biggest "separatist," opposition chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Tuesday in his election rally in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, has long been silent in Diyarbakır, where the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, have an overwhelming parliamentary majority.
On Tuesday, though, the CHP leader reiterated his party's projects for Diyarbakır and the region in hopes of gaining the hearts of people there.
Instead of the expected announcement of new efforts aimed at solving the longstanding Kurdish issue, Kılıçdaroğlu repeated his past vows, such as removing the 10% election threshold. He also said he would change the military's Internal Service Act to remove the clause seen as allowing military coups.
The CHP chief toured the city in his election bus before the rally, chatting with shopkeepers as children greeted him with the "V" sign, a hand gesture indicating peace. During the rally, at which he wore a regional "poşi" scarf, Kılıçdaroğlu was warmly greeted by a crowd of 1,500 locals. Members of the crowd held up signs in Kurdish as well as placards supporting Kılıçdaroğlu and the friendship between Turks and Kurds.
No tension was observed and shops stayed open during Kılıçdaroğlu's visit. Shop owners in Diyarbakır are expected to close their stores during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit Wednesday, as they did during earlier AKP rallies in the Southeast.
Referring to Erdoğan's promise to build a new prison in Diyarbakır, Kılıçdaroğlu said he would build a new factory instead, and turn the old prison into a museum. "We will face our past, and share our pains in order to reach freedom and democracy," the CHP chief said.
The AKP said it had removed the state of emergency in the region, but that is not the case, Kılıçdaroğlu said. "There is a state of emergency in all of Turkey," he said. "Under the rule of the AKP, the number of those in prison rose from 28,000 in 2005 to 52,000 in 2009. In the first six months of 2010, 596 people were put on trial for expressing their thoughts, with a projected [total] sentence of 1,219 years."
"How could this happen in 21st-century Turkey?" the CHP chief asked. "How can such a government be democratic?"
The CHP's new approach is to visit citizens personally to ask for votes and listen to their problems, instead of asking for support from Ankara, said Kılıçdaroğlu.
Referring to the criticism he received for suggesting sovereignty for local authorities, the CHP leader said he was "not trying to separate Turkey, and that everyone can live in this beautiful land in peace."
Addressing Erdoğan's critical claim that Kılıçdaroğlu did not have Turkish flags up during his election rallies, the CHP chief said: "It is wrong to conduct politics over flags. That is separatist. Erdoğan is thus the biggest separatist."
Speaking to journalists at the airport following his rally, Kılıçdaroğlu pointed out that he arrived "without a scratch" on his car, referring to the attacks on Erdoğan's convoys in various locations in the region.
"The AKP's votes are falling," Kılıçdaroğlu said. "The biggest indication of that is the prime minister's rising temper."
Pre-election estimates indicate that the 11 parliamentary seats to be filled from Diyarbakır will be split between BDP-supported candidates, with six seats, and the AKP, with five seats. In 2007, the AKP gained six seats while the BDP had four deputies from Diyarbakır.
30 GENERALS IN HASDAL, 28 AT ARMY HEADQUARTERS
Gen. Bilgin Balanlı, the first full general arrested within the scope of the "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) case, has been sent to the Hasdal military prison. Upon his arrival at the prison, Balanlı was greeted by generals who had already been arrested as part of the same investigation. Gen. Balanlı was placed in a single-person cell but was later sent to the GATA military hospital due to health problems. A total of 30 generals are currently in Hasdal prison, while 28 generals are serving at the General Staff headquarters.
MERKEL'S PLANE TOURS OVER TURKEY FOR TWO HOURS
Iran did not allow a plane carrying German Chancellor Angela Merkel to use its airspace en route to India. The plane toured over Turkey for two hours. When the plane was preparing to land in Ankara, Iran gave the green light. Merkel said it was fortunate they did not have to land in Ankara. Germany issued a diplomatic memo to Iran, saying the action was disrespectful to Germany. Iranian authorities said they had to close the airspace due to a technical problem.
PROTESTS, TURNED INTO A WAR ZONE TURKISH PM ERDOĞAN'S ELECTION RALLY IN HOPA
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's election rally Tuesday in Hopa was marred by protests that resulted in the death of one local resident and the injury of one of the prime minister's bodyguards.
The bodyguard fell from the top of the prime minister's bus and was transferred to a hospital in nearby Trabzon for treatment, the Doğan news agency reported, adding that he was n serious condition.
The Anatolia news agency reported, however, that the police officer fell after being hit by a rock thrown at the bus in Hopa, a city on the Georgian border.
Metin Lokumcu, a retired teacher, died in the hospital due to a heart attack, reportedly after collapsing during a police crackdown in the city. Lokumcu's friends said he was kicked by a police officer while already on the ground due to the gas bombs used by the police.
Nine people were wounded and six others were overcome by pepper gas sprayed by the police, Hopa State Hospital authorities told the Hürriyet Daily News over the phone.
Sedat Varan, the owner of the local newspaper 08 Haber Gazetesi, told the Daily News that the number of protesters was 100 at most but that the tension was still high in Hopa.
"The relatives of Lokumcu and some protesters gathered in front of the Hopa State Hospital, demanding to take the body," he said. "The officials denied the request as the body was sent to be autopsied and the gendarmerie took over control from the police in the district."
Varan said another protest was expected at the funeral ceremony scheduled for Wednesday.
Suat Kılıç, the deputy parliamentary group leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, claimed the protests in Hopa were "proof of the close relationship" between the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP.
"Just like the BDP supporters, the CHP supporters helped by throwing rocks, invading squares and [holding] illegal protests," Kılıç told reporters in Samsun. "The biggest threat to democracy now is the fury of the CHP. Of course, this fury will be answered by the people in the June 12 elections."
İsmet Şahin, who sought to be a BDP-supported candidate from Istanbul's 2nd Region, said the protests in Hopa were organized by thousands of people.
He also said the prime minister had bused in supporters from the provinces of Trabzon and Rize because AKP officials could not get Hopa residents to join the rally.
"Hopa locals have resisted other rightist parties entering the district as well, and the AKP was warned three days ago not to organize the meeting," Şahin said. "But the prime minister stubbornly changed the location of the meeting from the Artvin city center to Hopa, where leftist groups have the political power."
Protests and clashes between the police and the protesters continued for the whole day, although they were not covered by television channels.
According to Şahin, police kicked Lokumcu for not standing up and doctors also reported signs of physical mistreatment and broken bones.
"This is a critical moment. The prime minister has been sufficiently informed by his advisers as well, and came [to the city] aware of what the consequences could be," Şahin said, adding that no other ministers or prime ministers had visited Hopa before.
"Hopa has similarly resisted other rightist leaders as well. [Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader] Devlet Bahçeli respected this, and did not come to Hopa," he said.
According to Şahin, the situation is critical, particularly for young people. "There might be more protests [in the coming days]," he said.
The protests in Hopa started before Erdoğan's arrival in the coastal town. A group of demonstrators hung a huge banner, reading "Erdoğan, get out of Hopa," on a building overseeing the square where the prime minister would hold his rally. Another building in the square bore a huge banner for the main opposition CHP.
THOUSANDS MARCH IN ISTANBUL TO REMEMBER MAVI MARMARA VICTIMS
Thousands of people march in central Istanbul to commemorate the victims of last year's Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla and to support a second flotilla set to depart at the end of June
Cries, shouts and slogans against Israel echoed down Istanbul's famous İstiklal Avenue on Monday night as thousands gathered to commemorate the nine people killed last year on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.
The marchers also came out to express their support for a new flotilla set to depart at the end of June, a group of ships that includes the same vessel fatally raided by Israeli commandos May 31, 2010.
"I support the second flotilla 100%," Beyhan Korkut, a 23-year-old university student participating in the march, told the Hürriyet Daily News. "What is happening in Gaza has nothing to do with humanitarian conditions."
Korkut was joined by her 34-year-old cousin Nermin Turhanlı, who said she was protesting for the first time in her life.
"I would have gone with the [new] flotilla if I could," Turhanlı said. "I didn't apply because of my children, but my husband did. What they are doing is sacred."
Eight Turks and one American of Turkish descent were killed last year on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was part of an aid flotilla attempting to break Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip.
On the eve of the first anniversary of last year's raid, thousands of people marched toward Istanbul's Taksim Square, shouting "Allahuekber" (Allahu Akbar – God is the greatest) and carrying posters reading, "Cooperation with Israel is a crime against humanity" or "Palestine's resistance will win." While many protesters were supporters of the İHH, some foreign tourists also joined the march.
"We were just in the West Bank, we arrived in Istanbul half an hour ago and saw this protest," said an American couple, Julia and Mark Baisley. "What is happening there is insane. People are living behind a wall and left with nothing."
Others were more cautious about the protest.
"I don't think anything is going to happen but seeing this is intense. People look extremely charged," another visitor said.
The assembled crowd included not just adults but also many young people and families with children, shouting together: "Against the Zionist blockade stands our Islamic solidarity."
"Even though people died last year, the flotilla managed to draw the world's attention to what is happening [in Gaza]. Therefore it is important to go there again," protester Muhammed Gün told the Daily News.
İHH head Bülent Yıldırım made a similar announcement earlier in the day. "As you know, Egypt just opened its Rafah border against Gaza, but it is just for people to pass, there is no development on humanitarian aid," he said. "Therefore our mission is still critical."
The Mavi Marmara is set to sail to Gaza again in late June as part of an international group of 15 ships. According to convoy organizers with the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, 500,000 people applied to join the second flotilla, which will sail toward Gaza in the last week of June, carrying approximately 1,500 activists from about 100 countries, as well as carrying humanitarian aid and medical, school and construction materials.
WE WILL DO EVERYTHING TO STOP THE FILOTILLA
The Israeli Prime Minister says that Israel prefers to stop the Gaza Flotilla in diplomatic ways. However if diplomacy does not work, he says that they can use military power.