The leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was assaulted in Parliament in Ankara before his party group meeting on April 8.
“We do not step back just because of a punch,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told his party’s parliamentary group meeting immediately after the incident.
The incident took place before the scheduled meeting, after an assailant, who entered the Parliament as a visitor, delivered several kicks and punched Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The CHP leader fell on the floor during the attack while reports said his glasses were broken.
The attacker was identified as Orhan Ö. and was immediately taken to the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) meeting room “to prevent him from being attacked,” daily Radikal reported. He was detained by the police following the incident.
He is reportedly a member of the Alperen association, a youth organization affiliated with the ultra-nationalist Great Union Party (BBP). It has also been reported that the assailant shared a number of posts in praise of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his personal Facebook page.
The assault took place as Kılıçdaroğlu was greeting two BDP lawmakers, Altan Tan and Sırrı Sakık, as he was preparing to enter the CHP’s group meeting for his weekly address.
In his first testimony to the police, Orhan Ö. said security let him enter Parliament after he said at the entrance that he came to participate in the CHP’s parliamentary group meeting.
“I had set my mind to punch [Kılıçdaroğlu]. I waited for him to enter [the CHP’s meeting room] and punched him at the first opportunity,” he said.
As the assailant had been standing next to Sakık, speculations mounted that he was a member or supporter of the BDP. However, both BDP and CHP officials quickly refuted such claims.
BDP parliamentary group meetings regularly take place an hour before the CHP meetings, and the two parties’ parliamentary group halls are next to each other.
‘No violence can stop us’
Kılıçdaroğlu appeared on the rostrum a few minutes after the attack, apparently doing well despite the violent assault.
“I call on everybody to show restraint. The road to democracy is full of obstacles. This is not the first attack on a CHP leader,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, recalling that late President İsmet İnönü was also targeted in several physical attacks during his period as party leader.
“We will bring a healthy democracy to this country. No pressure or violence can stop us and nobody can bring us to our knees. We will never step back and we will never give up on our convictions,” he added.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and officials from other parties have condemned the attack. “We consider this attack to be an act of aggression against democracy and freedom of opinion. We call for the perpetrator to be brought to justice,” said the AKP in a statement in a swiftly released a written statement after the attack.
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek also condemned the attack, adding that security at Parliament would be increased. Çiçek also visited Kılıçdaroğlu to offer his best wishes.