Police in Turkey have arrested nine people, including a member of the ruling party, after an attack on main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, as his party organised rallies against the incident.
A mob attacked and punched Kilicdaroglu, 70, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Sunday as he attended the funeral in the Cubuk district of Ankara for a soldier killed fighting Kurdish fighters in the southeast.
The attack came days after the main opposition CHP won Ankara and Istanbul from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s Justice and Development (AK) Party on March 31 local elections in a stinging blow to the ruling party.
A video from Sunday’s attack went viral and sparked outrage on social media, with the hashtag #KilicdarogluYalnizDegildir (“Kilicdaroglu is not alone”) becoming a trending topic.
The chief suspect, identified only by his initials O.S., was arrested in Sivrihisar in Central Anatolia and was being taken to Cubuk, media reports said.
The AK Party later identified him as Osman Sarigun and said he was a party member who would face a disciplinary hearing for expulsion.
Five other detainees were already testifying at the police station in Cubuk, state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
After the attack, the CHP chief was taken to a nearby house for security reasons and then taken away in an armoured vehicle, local media reported.
“AK Party is against any form of violence. Our principles certainly reject violence. There is no room for violence in democratic politics,” spokesman Omer Celik said on Twitter.
The CHP tweeted late on Sunday: “Simultaneous public statements will be made [on Monday] in 81 cities against the treacherous attack on our chairman.”
At noon on Monday, simultaneous rallies took place across the country to protest against the attack.
Kilicdaroglu, who spoke to supporters after the incident, said the attack targeted Turkey’s unity.
“The assailants have no respect for the martyr (dead soldier),” he said. “They are not genuine Muslims.”
During campaigning for the local polls, Erdogan often accused Kilicdaroglu and the CHP of backing the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and showed videos of the opposition leader at his rallies.
Electoral authorities have given the CHP candidates their mandates for the Istanbul and Ankara mayor posts, but Erdogan’s AK Party is seeking a rerun of the Istanbul vote, citing irregularities.
CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu won the race by a tight margin after two weeks of recounts.
The CHP held Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu responsible for “provocation” after he said last year he had ordered governors not to allow CHP members to join soldiers’ funerals.
The CHP’s provincial heads in 81 cities plan a simultaneous statement about the “heinous attack” on Kilicdaroglu, the party said.