Turkey’s CHP prepares ‘world’s biggest petition’ for jailed journalists and academics

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been preparing the “world’s biggest petition” for jailed journalists and academics in Turkey. The CHP is holding a big rally in İstanbul’s Maltepe district on Sunday to mark the end of its “March for Justice,” which started from Ankara, and the petition is being prepared in the rally area. While the exact wording of the petition is unknown, it was stated that it concerns “those jailed unjustly.”

Meanwhile, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said he will walk alone to the “March for Justice” inMaltepe district on Sunday, the 25th and last day of the march from Ankara to İstanbul. “Our [justice] rally will be held on Sunday. I will walk alone to the location of the rally from Dragos [a district in İstanbul]. I urge citizens who have wanted to participate in the march not to wait for me in Dragos. I will walk to the rally alone. If you would like to participate, then you can of course come to the rally. I will arrive at the rally after walking two or three kilometers,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

“When we hold this rally, I do not want anything except the Turkish flag, the ‘justice banner’ and the poster of Atatürk [the founder of modern Turkey]. I do not want the [CHP’s] political flag with six arrows. We all just want justice. We live under our national flag together. We do not consider it suitable for those to carry other flags. We also consider those carrying other flags as provocateurs,” he added.

Participation in the march has been on the rise, especially since the group reached İstanbul on Friday. According to the t24 news website, 215,000 people participated in the first part of the walk on Saturday. However, Kılıçdaroğlu said he would walk the last stretch of the 450-kilometer distance from Ankara to İstanbul alone and meet supporters at the Maltepe rally area. CHP Deputy Enis Berberoğlu has been held in Maltepe Prison since June 14.

The “March for Justice” from Ankara to İstanbul was initiated in protest of the arrest of CHP Deputy Enis Berberoğlu, who was sentenced by Turkish court to 25 years in prison for leaking information for a report on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks transporting weapons to jihadists in Syria.

The government has been targeting the march on the grounds that it has been disrupting traffic. Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also recently accused the marchers of standing by terrorist organizations. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Friday claimed that the march has reached its objective and called on the CHP to end the protest.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 263 journalists are now in jails as of June 24, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 239 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s President autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting participants of the Gülen movement in jails.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has announced on July 7, 2017 that at least 50,504 people have been arrested and 168,801 have been the subject of legal proceedings (investigations, detentions etc.) in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Also, arrest warrants have been issued for 8,069 people, according to Bozdağ.

July 9, 2017

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