Car of Turkish leftist lawmaker, actor Barış Atay sabotaged

A car used by the actor and left-wing Turkish Workers’ Party (TİP) lawmaker Barış Atay in the southern province of Hatay has been sabotaged in an apparent attempt to cause the vehicle to crash, the online outlet TELE 1 said on Saturday.

A preliminary investigation indicated that the car - used by Atay, the TİP's deputy chairman and a member of parliament, as well as other members of the Hatay branch of the party - had been tampered with by loosening five bolts on the right front wheel of the vehicle, the TİP said in a statement.

Atay noticed a problem while driving without having an accident and is in good health, it said. 

“The Turkish Workers' Party will not bow to any kind of intimidation. We will follow the issue until the perpetrators are found and receive the necessary punishment,” the TİP said.  

Atay tweeted a photo of the wheel which showed two bolts missing and made a reference to threats previously made against himself and the party when he said that such an incident had been predicted. 

“The vehicle we use for the activities of our party in Antakya (Hatay) and the region,” he said. “Two bolts came out on the road. The (car) service said all five bolts had been loosened. We hope this intervention is not what we had predicted. That’s why we are warning! Either you find the person responsible or we will!”

TELE 1 cited a car mechanic as saying that remaining bolts would likely have fallen out if the vehicle had reached speeds of 80 to 100 km per hour, and the wheel would have come off.

Özgür Urfa, a lawyer and member of the TİP, said on Twitter on Sunday that the party had made criminal complaints to Istanbul's Anatolian Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on 12 and 13 May over ongoing threats to Atay on dozens of social media accounts.

Urfa said that an investigation registration number was only provided around 20 days after the criminal complaints were made. He said that their complaint was neither processed nor investigated, and that the sabotage might not have happened if the authorities had taken appropriate action.

"Citizens are detained within a few hours when they post critical political tweets, while those who threaten an opposition MP with death and insults have not been investigated for one month, and as a result, sabotage has occurred."

Late last month, the former Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ankara mayor Melih Gökçek blasted Atay on Twitter over his post on the Gezi anniversary that had called for the completion of a “half-finished task”. 

“This is an overt call for a riot. We are calling on our prosecutors to take action,” Gökçek said on Twitter.

Atay, also an actor who has appeared in a number of film and television roles in Turkey, was arrested in May 2018 over a tweet criticising the apology of a former aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for kicking a man protesting Turkey’s worst mining disaster. 

‘’You are all going to apologise in tears. When that day comes, we are not going to forget the forgiver, the empathiser and those who decided against a trial! ... You are going to be held accountable for what you’ve done to this country and its people!’’ Atay wrote.

In January 2018, the play “Just the Dictator”, in which Atay was the sole actor, was banned on the grounds of causing a threat to public order, peace and security.

Atay was first elected to parliament in July 2018 as a member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). However, he resigned from the HDP in 2018 alongside his colleague Erkan Baş, and both joined the socialist TİP to give the party its first seats in the assembly in 47 years.

The TİP was established in 1961 by 12 trade union members. In the 1965 elections, the TİP managed to win 15 seats in parliament and received 3 percent of the national vote. 

The party was closed following the 1971 coup and its leaders were arrested. It was reopened in 1975, but received just 0.1 percent of the vote in the 1977 elections and was shut down once again following the 1980 coup.

Since the party re-launched once yet again in 1987 it has been one of numerous tiny socialist parties in Turkey but achieved negligible electoral success.