Interior ministry files complaint against anti-refugee party leader

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Two departments of the Turkish Interior Ministry have filed complaints against Ümit Özdağ, leader of the far-right and anti-refugee Victory Party (ZP), which has been at the forefront of anti-refugee propaganda in Turkey, local media reported on Wednesday.

The ministry’s Directorate General of Migration Management and Directorate General for Legal Affairs on Wednesday submitted their complaints to the Parliamentary Crimes Investigation Bureau of the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

According to Turkish media reports, the complaints were based on Özdağ’s recent remarks about refugees in Turkey which they said “exceeded the limits of press freedom and freedom of expression” and included quotations of the ZP leader’s anti-refugee statements to print and visual media as well as those he made on social media.

“It is clear that [Özdağ’s remarks] incite the people to hatred and enmity against foreigners, are incompatible with the requirements of a democratic society and endanger public peace, public order and public security,” they said.

It was demanded in the complaints that the prosecutor’s office open a case against Özdağ based on their allegations and “crimes to be determined ex officio” by the office, local media reports said.

The ZP leader commented on the development on social media, saying in a tweet: “You can accuse and even condemn [me] for defending the Turkish homeland and the rights of the Turkish nation. Despite this, we will resist the covert invasion [of refugees]. But you will be tried for treason by an independent judiciary! In the mind  of the Turkish nation, you have already been convicted.”

The complaints against Özdağ come after tensions between the ZP leader and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu escalated last week in a spat over refugees in Turkey that came at a time when anti-refugee sentiment has reached a boiling point in the country, fueled by economic woes facing citizens.

After the minister insulted the ZP leader by describing him as “even lower than an animal,” Özdağ called Soylu for a personal meeting in an appeal resembling a challenge to combat, which remained unanswered.

Following Soylu’s remarks, Özdağ had said he was not going to answer Soylu’s insults with insults and would rather preserve his dignity in a face-off with him at 11:00 a.m. on May 6 in front of the interior ministry building, a meeting he would attend “unarmed and alone.”

At the announced time Özdağ was prevented from proceeding to the front of the interior ministry by riot police who blocked the roads, citing security reasons.

“Let those who fear you be like you. You are a criminal. When your term is over, you will be arrested,” Özdağ said to members of the press after he was denied passage to the ministry.

Attitudes about refugees fleeing the long conflict in Syria have gradually hardened in Turkey, where they used to be welcomed with open arms, sympathy and compassion, as the number of newcomers has swelled over the past decade.

Tensions between Turks and Syrians flare up on occasion in Turkey, where refugees are blamed for many of the country’s social and economic troubles.

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