The war of words between former President Abdullah Gul and incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a new turn on Saturday after Mr. Gul dismissed his successor’s accusations of betrayal to the party cause and said he would continue to express his critical views.
Speaking at a rally in the Black Sea province of Kastamonu on Saturday, President Erdogan, without giving a name, lambasted his predecessor for his criticism of a government decree granting immunity from prosecution for individuals for their actions during the coup last year.
“Aren’t we friends for the same cause? How can you suddenly embark on the ship of Mr. Kemal [Kilicdaroglu]? Shame,” the president said in indignation for his friend’s critical stance shared by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Earlier in the week, the former president revealed his objection to the decree’s legal ambivalence, which he argued was not compatible with the rule of law and could be exploited in moments of social upheavals.
His remarks sparked a concerted campaign from senior figures of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including its spokesman Mahir Unal and other close Erdogan associates, to castigate Mr. Gul.
On Saturday, the former president who was also one of the founding fathers of Islamist AKP expressed his displeasure over the attacks by what he said AKP trolls.
“I note that attacks on my personality from some lawmakers and trolls through certain media outlets and social media that exceeded disrespect, the boundaries of ethics and act have increased after my statement,” Mr. Gul said.
As someone who believes in the freedom of expression and thought, one of the founding principles of the AKP, he underlined, he would continue to express his thoughts whenever he deems necessary.
His latest emphasis comes as a rebuke to Mr. Erdogan and senior AKP figures who indirectly demanded silence from the former president.
The split came to the public view after the government on Sunday enacted a pair of decrees, dismissing more than 2,700 public servants in another round of purge.
Granting immunity to government loyalists from any legal probe for their actions to defeat putschists and “terrorists” during the coup attempt and its aftermath generated bitter political controversy.
Critics were left shuddering by the potential ramifications of the ruling that could give a blank check to Erdogan loyalists to crush any unrest or uprising in the future without fear of prosecution.