Investigation to be opened over main opposition leader’s visit to base: Minister

An investigation will be opened following main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s visit to a military base in the western province of Balıkesir on April 13, where he was greeted by a guard of honor, Defense Minister Fikri Işık has said, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on April 24.

“The commander of the Turkish Air Force has conducted an investigation, but this institution is under my control. I also have an inspection committee. So, I ordered the head of the committee [to make an] inspection. I told him, ‘Go, investigate this incident, conduct the necessary investigation and bring me a report about it,” Işık told broadcaster TV 24.

Işık also said the statement by the commander of the Turkish Air Force was not binding.

“The statement from the commander of the Turkish Air Force that was made last night is an internal statement. It is not binding. The final decision belongs to our ministry’s inspection committee,” he said.

Ünal Abidin, commander of Turkish Air Force, said on April 23 admitted that a mistake had been made but that were no ill intentions.

“An inspection was started with a directive from the Chief of General Staff. I completed an inspection and presented a report. But let me say two words. There was no ill intention, but there was a mistake,” he said.

Işık said they would evaluate the incident following the report.

“We will take action according to the report. The order which I gave now is an order to conduct an inspection and, if necessary, an investigation,” he said.

The Turkish General Staff stated on April 14 that it was starting an investigation amid the debate sparked by Kılıçdaroğlu’s visit to the military base.

“The issue regarding main opposition chairman Mr. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s visit to the 6th Main Jet Base Command on April 13, 2017, is being investigated,” the military said in a statement.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s private helicopter landed at the 6th Main Jet Base Command pad in the Bandırma district on April 13 as part of his program for the April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments in the province. He was greeted by base commander Brig. Ahmet Biçer, party deputies Namık Havutça, Mehmet Tüm, Ahmet Akın and Bandırma Mayor Dursun Mirza, along with a guard of honor.

The Bandırma mayor later shared the pictures of the military greeting on his Facebook profile, as members of the press were not allowed to attend.

Military sources said the guard of honor greeting for the CHP leader was inappropriate during an election period, while some figures close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said Kılıçdaroğlu violated the election law.

“The main opposition leader is fourth in state protocol. There should not have been a guard of honor. Only presidents are greeted by the guard of honor during pre-election restrictions, and the guard of honor is not extended to other political leaders. The base commander or his substitute could have greeted the CHP leader alone,” a source for the AKP said.