Probe launched into Turkey’s main opposition leader for calling president ‘sham dictator’

Probe launched into Turkey’s main opposition leader for calling president ‘sham dictator’

Probe launched into Turkey’s main opposition leader for calling president ‘sham dictator’

AA photo

Prosecutors have swiftly launched a probe into Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for his remarks describing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a “sham dictator.”

Upon media reports covering Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech delivered during a convention of his party on Jan. 16, Prosecutor Kürşat Kayral from the office in charge of investigating press crimes at the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office initiated the start of an investigation against Kılıçdaroğlu on charges of “openly insulting the president,” the state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Jan. 18.

“Our dear prophet says, ‘Seek knowledge even if you have to go as far as China.’ The so-called dictator says, ‘Those who treat the state as enemy while they eat the state’s bread,’” Kılıçdaroğlu said on Jan. 16, referring to Erdoğan’s harsh criticism of 1,200 academics from 90 Turkish universities who signed a petition last week condemning the military crackdown in the predominantly Kurdish-populated southeastern Anatolia.

“I want to ask Erdoğan, what were they thinking when those who eat the state’s bread were using all the opportunities of the state along with their families and robbing the state? The office you occupy is not an office for robbing the state. This disgrace is [marked] on your forehead and it will never be erased,” he added, referring to corruption claims that engulfed former government officials and members of his family during Erdoğan’s tenure as prime minister, before he was elected as president in August 2014.

The investigation has been opened on basis of Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) which says: “A person who defames the president of the [Turkish] Republic shall be imprisoned for a term of one to four years and the penalty to be imposed shall be increased by one-sixth if the offence is committed publicly and by one-third if it is committed by way of press and media.”

Since Erdoğan’s election as president in August 2014, the number of prosecutions for insulting the head of state has risen and largely targeted artists and journalists, as well as schoolchildren.

“On one side, there is Kılıçdaroğlu who lost every election that he entered; on the other side, there is our president who won every election that he entered since 1994; and the only authority that our president has sheltered is the national will. The sole address that he trusts is our sacred nation. Today, the mindset that likens him to a dictator put him in prison for reciting a poem and he went to [lead] the nation,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Jan. 17.

In 1999, Erdoğan, the founding leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), served four months in prison for reciting an Islamist poem, a conviction which also saw him banned from politics until his own party came to power in 2002.