Last week, one of the articles in the new decree that provides immunity to civilians who took to the streets to thwart the coup on the night of July 15, 2016 and the day after, July 16, was widely discussed. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) claimed that the measure has created uncertainties on whether the immunity would be valid for future coup attempts and terror acts. Moreover, some CHP politicians even claimed that the decree paves the way for the emergence of civilian militia groups.
Responding to the allegation, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Bülent Turan said the immunity solely encompasses the night of the coup attempt and the following morning. Commenting on the CHP's claim, the AK Party is creating an armed militia with the said statutory decree. Turan said the CHP knows it will not able to defeat the AK Party through opposition or creating new projects. Therefore, they are trying to prevent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's candidacy for 2019 through accusations of corruption and dictatorship. Bülent Turan believes that the CHP's concerns are not about corruption nor the statutory decree. According to him, CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been given a task, which is to prevent a balance in politics and create a polarized one.
Denying allegations that the AK Party will call a snap election in 2018, Turan said talking about snap elections means postponing and disregarding issues people are facing, while disrespecting the public will epitomized on April 16.
DAILY SABAH: Last week's statutory decree exempting civilians who stood against the coup attempt on July 15-16, 2016 from being tried was criticized by certain circles. What is your response to these criticisms?
BÜLENT TURAN: First of all, I believe those who are criticizing this decision have not even read the statutory decree. The document clearly states that this exemption is limited to citizens who were on the streets during the coup attempt.
A statutory decree that was proclaimed on July 25, 2016 had almost the same diction as the most recent one and it foresaw the judicial exemption of state personnel who has shown resistance to the coup. The statutory decree in question now includes civilians who have fought against the putschists to this exemption. These critics who had no issue with state personnel being exempted from trial are now objecting to the recent statutory decree; it is not possible to explain this attitude through goodwill.
I want to emphasize it once again: This statutory decree prevents civilians who fought against putschists on July 15-16, 2016 from being tried for their actions that night. For instance, some of our citizens choked the engine of putschist-controlled tanks by cramming their clothes to the exhaust. With this statutory decree, we are protecting them from facing a trial for damaging state property. We don't want them to be victimized in the courts. Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) members who are being tried in Sincan and Silivri dare to say that relatives and families of the July 15 martyrs are going to be put through a trial. I have seen this in court sessions I have attended. Therefore, our only intention is to prevent the victimization of people who were on the streets during the coup attempt, protecting our country and democracy.
D.S.: Former President Abdullah Gül also criticized this statutory decree over Twitter. He said, "the vagueness of the diction which is incompatible with legal terminology is concerning in terms of a state of law." What is your take on this subject?
B.T.: I don't believe it is correct to discuss who said what. The government, executive and ministries are all there. Those who disregarded the previous statutory decree about state personnel should not speak about so-called concerns, regardless of who they are.
It's not my place to criticize a prominent figure who has served our party. Yet, we should take differing perceptions into consideration. For instance, when FETÖ first attempted to undermine the government on Feb. 7, 2012 by calling National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan to take his statement, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan realized it was an attempt to depose him and had expressed that Fidan shouldn't go to give his statement. Meanwhile, then-President Gül had advised Fidan to give his statement. We were disappointed when we had seen these expressions on the news.
If I were Abdullah Gül, I would directly speak with President Erdoğan or Prime Minister Yıldırım to voice my concerns, instead of tweeting them. However, Gül tweeting at a time when President Erdoğan is abroad saddens me as a member of the AK Party.
D.S.: The CHP is claiming that the AK Party is creating an armed militia with the said statutory decree. What would be your response?
B.T.: There is an ongoing struggle for sovereignty in Turkey. Whether Turkey is to be governed by itself, or by certain other countries, this is what the struggle is all about. The CHP is distorting what the statutory decree states. They are talking about concerns and fears about a militia being created because they are a part of this struggle. Similarly, the CHP's claims about corruption and President Erdoğan's alleged dictatorship or fascism should be considered as a part of this struggle.
The CHP knows it will not able to defeat the AK Party through opposition or creating new projects. Therefore, they are trying to prevent Erdoğan's candidacy for 2019 through accusations of corruption and dictatorship. While the Reza Zarrab case is on session, CHP's Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu started to talk about Isle of Man documents. We were curious and thus investigated the documents. We found out that these documents were already "announced" by FETÖ's Said Sefa, better known by his alias Fuat Avni, in May. In this respect, these aren't new. Moreover, the documents are false.
Kılıçdaroğlu clearly feeds from FETÖ's sources. The transactions mentioned in these documents were realized between two Turkish banks, Halkbank and AlbarakaTürk. There is no offshore transaction.
In short, the CHP's concerns aren't about corruption nor the statutory decree. CHP Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu has been given a task, which is to prevent a balance in politics and create a polarized one. They want chaos in Turkey. Kılıçdaroğlu is giving his dues to certain forces which have granted him the CHP chairmanship.
D.S.: Fatih Gürsul, one of Kılıçdaroğlu's former senior advisers, was recently sentenced to 10.5 years in jail for being a FETÖ member. What is your assessment about this situation?
B.T.: Honestly, I'm not surprised. After Kılıçdaroğlu became the chairman, the CHP's relations and policies were transformed.
We equally supported all religious congregations that were claiming to contribute to the society. However, after it was revealed that this congregation has become a criminal organization with Feb. 7 MİT crisis and the Dec. 17-25 judicial coup attempt, we cut ties with them and started to effectively fight FETÖ.
On the other hand, when the AK Party started to fight against FETÖ, the CHP started to cooperate with FETÖ despite claiming to oppose such organizations. For instance, while media outlets belonging to FETÖ were being closed down, certain CHP deputies continued to support them. Whenever FETÖ was in trouble since 2014, Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP acted in a way to protect and support them. Gürsul, who was sentenced for being a FETÖ member, was made senior adviser after 2014 when the CHP and FETÖ formed an alliance.
It's not only Gürsul as well; there are many deputies who are in cooperation with FETÖ. The CHP is no longer the CHP of the past; the current CHP bears no similarity with Deniz Baykal's CHP. Once nationalitarian, nationalist and statist, the CHP was replaced by a pro-U.S. CHP that cooperates with FETÖ.
D.S.: Could you elaborate on the pro-U.S. part of your statement?
B.T.: In the previous weeks, CHP's İzmir Deputy Tuncay Özkan said: "There is an ongoing change in Saudi Arabia; they will establish diplomatic relations with Israel in the short-term. Iran will get its share from this transformation. Turkey will also get its share from it. So, what will happen? Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his political cadre will go. There is no other way."
Could you imagine - a deputy of the main opposition party is exhilarated because he thinks Trump's policies will dominate the region and will force Erdoğan to resign. Failing to create policies that benefit the people, the CHP's only hope in governing Turkey is to cooperate with foreign forces and the U.S. Özkan's statement is a clear indicative of this.
The CHP is no longer governed by the principles of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The part no longer possesses the anti-imperialist notions of Atatürk, İsmet İnönü's principled foreign policy understanding or Ecevit's patriotism that was signified with intervention to Cyprus. Now, there is a CHP that announces forged documents provided by FETÖ, and dreams of government through the ongoing Zarrab case in the US. This is why I've said that they are pro-U.S.
D.S.: Recently, Istanbul's Ataşehir district mayor who is a member of the CHP was dismissed by the Interior Ministry due to corruption. The CHP, on the other hand, claimed the AK Party is trying to intimidate them. What is your take on this issue?
B.T.: CHP Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu claimed that Istanbul's Ataşehir district mayor was acquitted of all accusations. If this is truly the case, we want Kılıçdaroğlu to share this court decision with the public. He always says he doesn't claim anything without evidence, so, let's see his evidence.
Meanwhile, the case against the said mayor is still going on. The expert expressed that he couldn't explain how the provost accumulated TR 13 million [$3.4 million] in wealth. What is more concerning is that the new mayor who replaced Battal İlgezdi is also being tried with the accusation of corruption.
D.S.: Some are criticizing the government of implementing statutory decrees that are not related with the state of emergency or the fight against terrorism, therefore bypassing Parliament and establishing an arbitrary government. How do you respond to these criticisms?
B.T.: The state of emergency was declared to fight against terrorist organizations, especially FETÖ. The state of emergency is a constitutional institution that could be announced during times of crisis. To have an efficient governance during such times, the president is vested with the authority to announce statutory decrees. Statutory decrees allow the government to have a more effective fight against terrorist organizations. Moreover, these statutory decrees are also discussed by Parliament; two of them became laws after Parliament ratified them. Parliament continues to uphold its legislative duties. Since the beginning of the new legislative year in October, dozens of laws were passed in Parliament. Therefore, claiming that Parliament is being bypassed is nothing but a farce.
D.S.: There are allegations that the AK Party will call snap elections in 2018. What can you tell us about these allegations?
B.T.: With the constitutional amendment ratified on April 16, Nov. 3 2019 is designated as the election day. We don't have snap elections in our agenda. We are working hard for the 2019 elections and trying to address the issues people are experiencing. Talking about snap elections means postponing and disregarding the issues people are facing, while disrespecting the public will epitomized on April 16.
D.S.: In recent weeks, it was discussed that the AK Party might team up with the MHP in the 2019 elections. What do you think about these discussions? What should be the common principle if the AK Party is to ally with another political party for the elections?
B.T.: Forming electoral alliances is against the provisions of the current Political Party Law. Moreover, discussing an alliance now is not very healthy. Yet, it should be expressed that there is a de facto alliance after the heinous July 15 coup attempt. This de facto alliance was consolidated with the April 16 referendum.
Considering the Zarrab case, myriads of forged documents and approaches of various global powers, certain forces will intervene the 2019 elections through their collaborators in Turkey. In such a case, this alliance could be consolidated further to thwart the conspiracies of various global forces.
D.S.: Lastly, when will the adjustment laws required for the transition to the presidential system will be discussed by Parliament? Can you inform us about the AK Party's efforts in this matter?
B.T.: These adjustment laws should not be on only the AK Party's agenda. You may or may not approve, but this is a decision taken by the people on April 16. In this respect, politicians should respect the will of the public and act accordingly. However, the opposition is still acting as if Turkey is going to be governed by a parliamentary system. Like it or not, a presidential system was ratified. Moreover, the opposition is talking about Parliament becoming increasingly nonfunctional. If this is the case, let's discuss this issue and make the adjustment laws together to address these alleged issues.
Various commissions are founded at the AK Party headquarters for this matter. These commissions are working on adjustment laws. When it's concluded, we will submit our work to Parliament for discussion. I hope the opposition will contribute to this process.