ISTANBUL: A Turkish opposition politician who is being investigated for criticizing a military deal with Qatar has defended his remarks.
MP Ali Mahir Basarir, from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the Turkish army had been sold to the Qataris under a series of deals that were signed between the two governments on Nov. 26.
“We have reached a point where the state’s army is sold to Qatar in a first for the country’s history,” he said during a TV interview.
He criticized a contract that was signed last year with military vehicle producer BMC, a Turkish-Qatari joint venture, for the mass manufacture of the Altay tank, Turkey’s first new generation main battle tank.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Nov. 29 launched a probe into the opposition politician for “humiliating the Turkish government and the army.”
But Basarir denied his remarks were critical of the army. “I stand behind my words,” he tweeted on Sunday. “Selling a military factory of our army to another country is treachery. It is betrayal.”
There have been strongly worded statements from government officials, and even accusations of him of being “a lover” of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“This deputy is not worthy of representing our sacred nation,” Mahir Unal, deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), tweeted. “He should quickly apologize.”
AKP spokesman Omer Celik blamed Basarir for “using poisonous language devoid of morals about the heroic Turkish army.”
The Turkish Defense Ministry is expected to file a complaint about the MP for “insulting the army and Turkish soldiers,” while Turkey’s media watchdog will investigate the broadcast.
Turkey’s top tank factory was transferred to a Turkish-Qatari private venture in 2019 to produce armored vehicles.
The Turkish partner of BMC, Ethem Sancak, is known to be a close confidant of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The plant was leased by BMC, which will operate the national tank factory for 25 years, but the lease price has never been made public.
The deal was criticized by opposition figures at the time, and they emphasized the strategic importance of such a factory for Turkey’s defense capabilities.
Qatar also signed a billion-dollar contract last year to buy about 100 tanks from Turkey.
But Germany is reluctant to share its engine expertise technology – which is critical for making these tanks – with Turkey due to political concerns.
“This government likes Qataris more than Turkish people,” CHP lawmaker Alpay Antmen tweeted. “It is totally ‘emotional.’”