Pro-government Turkish journalist threatens opposition leader

“Turkey’s leftist main opposition Republican People’s Party [CHP] should nominate popular nationalist politician Meral Akşener as its candidate for president in the June elections,” pro-government journalist Cemil Barlas tweeted on Wednesday.

It is not yet clear whether Akşener’s new İYİ Party will be able to participate in the snap polls due to election rules barring newly formed parties from competing. But the İYİ Party looks to have considerable support in opinion polls, and Akşener announced she would stand as president.

To be nominated as an independent candidate, Akşener must collect 100,000 signatures. “She should not bother herself by collecting 100,000 signatures,” Barlas said.

Those signing the nomination, he said in an implicit threat, would share the fate of the tens of thousands arrested for downloading the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.“That list will eventually be a Bylock list,” Barlas said.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with 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 them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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