İYİ Party’s Akşener: Pro-Erdoğan civilians receiving weapons training in camps in Turkey

Meral Akşener

İYİ (Good) Party Chairperson Meral Akşener has claimed (pro-Erdoğan) civilians have been receiving weapons training in camps in the Black Sea province of Tokat and the Central Anatolian province of Konya, reported by neo-nationalist Sözcü daily on Tuesday.

“We have heard about these training camps in Tokat and Konya (provinces). They should be investigated and the results should be shared with us, “Akşener said in an interview.

Akşener said some people who have been seen “moving around with long-range guns lately” are told to be linked to these training camps. According to Akşener, they are being prepared for the election season and would be used to stir chaos if the results disappoint the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

According to Article 121 of the government decree No. 696, which was released on December 24, 2017, regardless of an official title or duties or the lack thereof, people who played a role in the suppression of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and subsequent events and terrorist activities will be exempt from criminal liability.

The Article 121 of Decree Law No. 696, which has been interpreted as a “licence to kill” for radical Islamist and neo-nationalist pro-government circles, reads: “Regardless of their official duties, or appointments, any individuals who took part in suppressing the attempted coup d’état on July 15, 2016, terror acts, and other acts which are considered to be a continuation of these, will be subjected to the first clause [on immunity].”

Although she said these were still speculations, Akşener warned citizens and asked for precautions to be taken starting now, before the election season begins. Akşener mentioned a single group’s name in the interview when talking about the training camps. “One of them is a structure called ‘SADAT,’” Akşener said.

According to a report by Hürriyet daily news, in mid-2016, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Fikri Sağlar said the SADAT International Defense Consultancy, established in the early 2000s by soldiers dismissed from the military due to “reactionary activities,” is a company close to the AKP and offers “irregular warfare training” in various fields including “intelligence, psychological warfare, sabotage, raiding, ambushing, and assassination.”

The head of SADAT, retired brigadier Adnan Tanrıverdi, denies the opposition’s allegations that the company gives weapons training to civilians.

“What they want to do is to repel voters from the elections,” Akşener said and added that “They are trying to scare voters by saying SADAT members or some other armed group will be on duty in the elections.”

“They are worried they won’t be able receive more than 50 percent of the votes in the presidential elections. That’s where the unease is coming from,” Akşener said, referring to the AKP. But the people should not be discouraged from voting, Akşener warned. “I tell them not to be scared. We need serenity, and we will establish it,” the İYİ Party leader said.

When asked about the possibility of snap elections, Akşener said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Erdoğan would not miss the chance. “I anticipate the presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on July 15, 2018. It falls on a Sunday, that is the expectation,” Akşener had told journalists on Dec. 28.

Turkey is scheduled to hold three elections in 2019, and the change in the governance system, stipulated by the constitutional amendments approved in the April referendum, will fully be in effect after the presidential elections and parliamentary elections.

“Erdoğan will never hold local elections before the general elections. Because they receive fewer votes in local elections,” Akşener said.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Mahir Ünal has responded to Akşener’s claims and calling Akşener a “warmonger.” “This language used is irresponsible, it’s nonsense. It is inciting civil war,” Ünal said in an interview with private broadcaster CNN Türk late on Jan. 2.

Denying Akşener’s comments, Ünal said “relevant authorities will announce that this is impossible.” He stated that Akşener’s claims aim to provoke further polarization in an already divided society, calling her behavior “irresponsible.”

“What they are claiming is that we [AKP] would let some people act in a way that would pose a security risk. We will never condone this. We will never let anyone harm the constitution, the current order, stability, trust and security in this country,” he added.

“Some people are conducting a dark propaganda against Turkey. A part of this propaganda encourages for a civil war. Nobody can ignite a civil war in this country. The AKP would never let that happen,” he said.

He also denied rumors that during the night of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt some civilians had seized weapons from putschist soldiers. “That night when the nation seized the weapons from the soldiers who pointed those guns at them, they did not use those same guns toward those soldiers. They later handed the weapons over to the state. There was no plundering. Neither tanks, weapons or military equipment were taken,” he said.

“The military inventory is not missing anything. On the contrary, everything has been taken back by the police and the military,” he added.

Speaking to private broadcaster Kanal D in an interview, İyi Party deputy leader Ümit Özdağ backed Akşener’s claims. “We don’t know more than what we have shared with the public. But what we know is that these are very worrisome,” Özdağ said on Wednesday.

İyi Party spokesperson Aytun Çıray has also said the information they received indicated “there are such trainings happening; militia trainings in seven different cities in Turkey.” “We have received information that some mayors are also supporting these trainings,” Çıray added.

Amid reactions to a new state of emergency decree giving immunity to civilians for suppressing coup attempts and terror attacks, the People’s Special Forces (HÖH), which has been called a militia close to Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by the main opposition party, had announced that they will take to the streets only if Erdoğan orders them to do so, Hürriyet reported on Friday.

In an interview with the newspaper, Fatih Kaya, the head of the HÖH, said they established their organization on Nov. 30, 2016 and have 7,000 members and 22 branches across Turkey including in İstanbul and Ankara.

About a photo taken with President Erdoğan, the HÖH chairman said: “I went there to explain to our President [Erdoğan] that we are in this kind organization. Why are some people annoyed by a photo with a person who was elected by the people?”

Denying claims that they will take to the streets to put down events like the Gezi Park protest of 2013, Kaya said: “We will not go into the streets unless amir al mu’minin [Erdoğan] orders it, like on July 15, 2016… Our state, military and police control everything. When the time comes, if we are needed we are always ready as an 80-million-strong nation.”

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