Ankara (AFP) - A senior advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he would personally defend the head of state with his own weapons and ammunition, as political tensions intensify ahead of June 7 elections.
"I have two licensed guns and hundreds of bullets which I've had for years because of my rights," Yigit Bulut, chief economic advisor to Erdogan, told a live show broadcast on state-run TRT Haber late Tuesday.
"Nobody can put their hands on the elected president of this country before I die, am shot or hanged.
"I don't say it as Yigit Bulut. There are millions of citizens like me," he said.
Bulut is a former journalist who first became a advisor to Erdogan in 2013 during his premiership and then moved to the presidency with him after the August 2014 election.
Known for his provocative remarks, speculation that Bulut could be give a top job managing the economy have rattled financial markets in the last weeks.
His comments come in response to a controversy over the portrayal in Turkish mainstream media of the death sentence handed down on Saturday by an Egyptian court to ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Turkey's mass circulation Hurriyet newspaper headlined its report on verdict "Death sentence with 52 percent", which was severely criticised by pro-government media and Erdogan himself for allegedly suggesting that the Turkish leader could share the same fate as Morsi.
Erdogan was elected president with 52 percent of the vote in the August 2014 election.
The president accused the Dogan Media Group, which owns Hurriyet, of threatening him with the death penalty against the deposed Egyptian leader.
In an editorial published Tuesday, Hurriyet called Erdogan's attack "unfounded" and wrote that the president had distorted the headline.
"Mr President, what do you want from us?" it asked.
But Bulut said he challenged whoever dared to attack Erdogan.
"You cannot even lay a hand on the seat of this country's elected president before we die," he said.
"Whoever has the courage, whoever wants to try, whoever has the self-confidence, then I dare you."
Political tensions are spiralling in Turkey ahead of the June 7 polls, where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has its work cut out to win the constitutional majority needed to create a presidential system under Erdogan.
Bulut earned particular notoriety during the 2013 protests against Erdogan's rule, making a series of bizarre suggestions that the rallies had been organised by German airline Lufthansa or that his opponents were trying to kill the Turkish leader through "telekinesis".
In previous years before becoming an advisor, he had worked for media that are sometimes critical of Erdogan including the Radikal newspaper and CNN-Turk television channel.