June 17, 2018 / 8:08 PM / 5 months ago

Turkey arrests suspect as puppy torture case shifts election agenda

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish police have arrested a man suspected of torturing a puppy after shocking images emerged online of the maimed animal in a case that has outraged the country and grabbed the political agenda ahead of next week’s elections.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters during an election rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 17, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

The puppy, whose four paws and tail had been cut off, was found in a forest in the Sapanca district in the northwestern province of Sakarya and taken to a vet for treatment. The wounded animal died during surgery on Friday.

President Tayyip Erdogan told an election rally in Istanbul on Sunday that police had detained a construction machine operator on Saturday in relation to the puppy’s death.

Erdogan pledged that Turkey’s animal rights laws would be amended after the June 24 vote in which he is aiming to win a second term.

“Whether at home or on the street, we will take the law into consideration and evaluate it. This operator was arrested today. The authorities in Sapanca ordered his arrest,” he said.

“There is nothing acceptable about this, but it is very important to show this awareness.”

The incident prompted a rare show of unity among Turkey’s political parties and presidential candidates, who have been trading barbs for weeks ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary and presidential elections.

As images and videos of the puppy drew outrage on social media, both government officials and opposition politicians condemned the act and have called for stricter measures against those mistreating animals.

Animal rights groups say Turkey’s punishments for animal cruelty are too lenient. An amendment to animal rights legislation has been on the parliament’s agenda for months, but little progress has been made.

“This brutality against a small being is a painful manifestation of the loss of values in our country. I hope to God that those who hurt a small puppy find what they deserve in the afterlife,” Iyi Party leader and presidential candidate Meral Aksener said on Twitter.

“If only they would do so in this world with the correct laws as well,” she said.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Ros Russell

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