Turkey’s main opposition party has called on Parliament to launch an inquiry after its leader was attacked by a mob during a funeral for a fallen soldier, Turkish media have reported.
An angry crowd set upon Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), in the Çubuk province of Ankara on Sunday as he attended the funeral of a soldier killed by the PKK near the border with Iraq.
Video footage showed Mr Kılıçdaroğlu, 70, being pushed and shoved, with at least one person appearing to land a punch on his face, as security personnel struggled to maintain order.
He was forced to take refuge in a nearby house before being taken away to safety.
A man named Osman Sarıgün, suspected of punching Mr Kılıçdaroğlu and said to have been a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was arrested and later released under “judicial control”, state news agency Anadolu said on Tuesday.
AKP spokesman Ömer Çelik said that Mr Sarıgün had been dismissed from the party after a disciplinary board meeting, based on AKP’s “rejection of violence”.
Eight others detained in connection with the incident have also since been released, reports said.
Mr Kılıçdaroğlu was “fine” following the attack, the CHP said, adding that it would take legal action “against the culprits”.
Speaking to reporters following a visit by Democrat Party (DP) leader Gültekin Uysal on Wednesday, Mr Kılıçdaroğlu said that he had been the victim of a “lynch” attempt.
“The attack, or more correct to say the lynch attempt, against me is not pardonable, but we should protect our common sense despite everything,” he was quoted as saying by Hürriyet Daily News.
Asked for his response to a photo purporting to show Mr Sarıgün having his hand kissed by supporters as a sign of respect, Mr Kılıçdaroğlu responded: “There would be no such picture if there was no political pressure. I do not want to say anything else beyond this.”
He said that politicians had a duty to prevent tensions escalating and expressed his confidence in the “common sense” of the Turkish public.
“Societies that can come together at times of pain and joy live peacefully,” he added.
The comments came after the CHP on Tuesday described the attack as a “premeditated effort to provoke the locals who attended the funeral to commit violence against Kılıçdaroğlu” in a petition submitted to Parliament.
Members of the mob at one point called for the house where Mr Kılıçdaroğlu took shelter to be “burned down”, according to the petition.
The CHP also criticised the “late intervention” of security forces.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in an appearance at Parliament, denied any link between his call for an “Alliance of Turkey” and the attack on Kılıçdaroğlu, according to Hürriyet Daily News.
“Was the Alliance of Turkey a call for the attack?” he was quoted as saying.
“Or is it because that there is a martyr here? And it’s well known who has martyred our soldier.
“Which parties are hand-in-hand with the PKK, and which other political parties in Turkey are hand-in-hand with these parties?”
The comments were seen as a reference to the CHP and the pro-Kurdish party HDP, which the Turkish government has accused of having links to the PKK terror group, claims the HDP denies.
Asked if he had phoned Mr Kılıçdaroğlu after the attack, Mr Erdoğan said he had “already made his comment on the incident” so there was no need for him to call Kılıçdaroğlu.
Mr Erdoğan was referring to a statement he issued via his official Twitter account on Monday, in which he strongly condemned the violence at the funeral.
Locals kiss hand of alleged assailant of opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
Released from detention, the attacker who punched CHP Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the face returned to his neighborhood; welcoming the attacker, some people had their photos taken while kissing his hands https://t.co/ZG91xYfb1N pic.twitter.com/v8UiGcgTK0
— bianet English (@bianet_eng) April 24, 2019
President Erdoğan also criticised Mr Kılıçdaroğlu, however, for failing to take into account the “psychological environment” at the funeral.
“There is no need to abuse the funerals. We have to pay utmost attention,” Erdoğan said, adding that even he, as President, sometimes questioned whether or not he should attend military funerals.
Mr Kılıçdaroğlu responded that he had decided to attend the funeral after making “initial contacts” with the relatives of the deceased soldier and local governors.
The attack on Mr Kılıçdaroğlu comes amid rising political tensions in Turkey after the CHP took control of Turkey’s two biggest cities – Istanbul and Ankara – in local elections on 31 March, although the AKP still emerged as the biggest party overall.
The AKP has challenged the legitimacy of the win by CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu in Istanbul, where he won by just 13,000 votes out of more than 8 million following a recount.
Meanwhile there was support expressed via social media for Mr Kılıçdaroğlu from across the political spectrum in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Writing on Twitter, President Mustafa Akıncı said he “strongly condemned the heinous attack” on Mr Kılıçdaroğlu.
“I express my sympathy for Mr Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP family and wish a peaceful future for Turkey,” he added.
Similar messages of condemnation and sympathy were also shared by Prime Minister and Republican Turkish Party leader Tufan Erhürman; Deputy Prime Minister and People’s Party head Kudret Özersay; Deputy Speaker Zorlu Töre, of the National Unity Party; and Democrat Party chief, Finance Minister Serdar Denktaş.