Attorney faces probe after defending men who unfurled ‘thief’ banner against Erdoğan
İsmail Saymaz KIRKLARELİ
A man unfurls a banner reading 'there is a thief' during an AKP rally in the southern province of Osmaniye ahead of the local polls.An attorney defending two men who were fined for unfurling a “thief” banner at a rally for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is now the subject of a legal complaint after arguing that his clients simply expressed their “democratic reaction” against corruption claims.
The two men were fined over 7,000 Turkish Liras each for unfurling a banner reading “There is a thief, did your bring Bilal [Erdoğan]?” during a local election rally in the western province of Kırklareli on March 1. The then-prime minister was facing graft allegations after a leaked voiced recording allegedly featuring a conversation between him and his son, Bilal Erdoğan.
After the two individuals were charged with “insulting a public servant” by the court, their lawyer Özgür Urfa filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeals, criticizing the fact that saying “there is a thief” – a slogan that was popular during public demonstrations in Turkey at the time – was now considered a crime.
Recalling the allegations against Erdoğan in his appeal demand, Urfa argued that his clients had used their democratic right to protest. “The fact that a robbery theme was used in the banner is a normal reflex and a part of life,” Ufa wrote.
Erdoğan’s lawyers later filed a complaint to the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office, arguing that Urfa had defamed the current president in his defense.
They argued that proffering “unfounded accusations” against Erdoğan could not be tolerated by law. Urfa will now have to respond to the accusations within 20 days.
The government was shaken by corruption investigations implicating four ex-ministers last year. The probes prompted a massive purge within the police and the judiciary as part of infighting between the government and followers of the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who had held key positions in the bureaucracy.