Turkey arrests opposition party members for distributing free face masks

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Sun, 03 May 2020 - 02:55 GMT

A demonstrator, wearing a face mask for protection against coronavirus, reacts after his arrest by Turkish police officers, during May Day protests in Istanbul, on May 1, 2020. (AP)

A demonstrator, wearing a face mask for protection against coronavirus, reacts after his arrest by Turkish police officers, during May Day protests in Istanbul, on May 1, 2020. (AP)

CAIRO – 3 May 2020: Turkish Police has arrested some members of former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's Future Party in Bitlis, eastern Turkey, for distributing face masks over Turkish citizens.

According to Turkey Now website, the detainees include some members of the provincial council.

Veysel Babahan, manager of the Future Party in Bitlis, five of our board members were detained on the grounds that selling masks is prohibited. “However, we were distributing masks to our citizens free of charge,” he said.

Opposition parties say their exclusion from fund-raising efforts and the detention of government critics is fueling division within the country’s political scene.

But more than 200 people have been arrested for social media posts on the pandemic and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who obtained sweeping new powers in a 2018 switch to a presidential system, has blocked opposition aid campaigns, saying only the state can raise funds.

“The lack of a presidency that embraces all its citizens and unites them is felt more than ever today,” Faik Oztrak, a spokesman for the main opposition CHP, told reporters this week.

Erdogan’s AK Party, in power since 2002, was putting its own interests first “even during an extraordinary pandemic”, he said, and failing to provide sufficient financial support for millions impacted by the outbreak.

Davutoğlu has criticized the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over “being degenerate,” as he said that the country is back to the 1990s.

“Turkey has degenerated in politics and shifted from its axis. What brought the AKP to power in 2002 was political degeneration. There is degeneration today as well,” Davutoğlu said, adding that all the actors of the “Old Turkey” are trying to use the AKP, referring to Erdogan’ concept of a “New Turkey” as the beginning of a new era.

“Erdoğan doesn’t say, ‘Old Turkey’ as he used to. Turkey is back to the 1990s,” he added.

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