Turkish MP who suffered heart attack during speech in parliament dies

Hasan Bitmez dies at a hospital in Ankara two days after heart attack during anti-Israel speech.

A Turkish opposition legislator who suffered a heart attack and collapsed in parliament during a speech railing against the government’s policy towards Israel has died.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday that Hasan Bitmez, a 54-year-old member of the Islamist Saadet Partisi, or Felicity Party, had died in an Ankara hospital two days after the incident.

“You allow ships to go to Israel, and you shamelessly call it trade. … You are Israel’s accomplice,” Bitmez said in his speech targeting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on Tuesday after placing a poster on the podium reading: “Murderer Israel; collaborator AKP.”

“Even if you escape the torment of history, you will not be able to escape the wrath of God,” he said at the end of the 20-minute speech before collapsing at the lectern.

Other members of the Grand National Assembly rushed forward to help, and Koca said on Tuesday that Bitmez had been “resuscitated in parliament and transferred within 20 minutes to hospital” where medical equipment had kept him alive.

The opposition figure, who was married and a father of one, graduated from Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, worked for Islamic nongovernmental groups and was chairman of the Centre for Islamic Union Research.

His speech accused the government of continuing friendly economic relations with Israel during its assault on Gaza, which has killed nearly 19,000 Palestinians. His remarks drew jeers from AK Party members.

While Erdogan has worked to improve ties with Israel after a period of frosty relations, he has also railed against the current war between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas, calling Israel a “terror state” and pushing for a ceasefire.

In a small ceremony on Thursday on the grounds of the Grand National Assembly, Bitmez’s coffin was draped with a Turkish flag, and a small Palestinian flag was attached as well.

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