Turkish lawmaker who gave speech criticizing Israel dies after collapsing in parliament

A Turkish opposition legislator died Thursday, days after he suffered a heart attack and collapsed in parliament just after delivering a speech critical of Israel and of the Turkish ruling party’s relationship with the country.

Hasan Bitmez, 53, a member of parliament from the Islamist Saadet Partisi, or Felicity Party, died at the Ankara City Hospital, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced.

Bitmez collapsed at the lectern of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on Tuesday after speaking for some 20 minutes.

Legislators in the hall assisted Bitmez before he was rushed to the hospital in “extremely serious and critical” condition.

During his speech, he was seen holding a sign that read: “Murderer Israel, Collaborator AKP,” in reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party.

Bitmez accused the AKP government of continuing to engage in trade with Israel even as it became one of its most vocal critics. AKP lawmakers heckled during his speech.

The legislator concluded his remarks by reading from a poem that ended with: “Even if you escape the torment of history, you will not be able to escape the wrath of God.”

A ceremony was held for Bitmez on the grounds of the parliament building Thursday. A Palestinian flag was attached to his coffin, which was draped in the Turkish flag.

His funeral was scheduled to be held in Istanbul on Friday.

The Felicity Party joined an opposition alliance that failed to topple Erdogan in a May presidential election.

By Ch Fahad Janda