Turkish rescue association head on trial for ‘insulting president’ released on probation

Turkish rescue association head on trial for ‘insulting president’ released on probation

Turkish rescue association head on trial for ‘insulting president’ released on probation

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Nasuh Mahruki, the head of the non-profit Search and Rescue Association (AKUT), has been released on probation, shortly after being referred to court with an arrest demand on Oct. 24 for allegedly “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Mahruki, a famous mountain climber who is widely known in Turkey for his volunteer rescue work and social projects, testified to the prosecutor at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse after Erdoğan’s lawyer filed a complaint regarding his remarks on a program on the pro-government private broadcaster Kanal A. He was later referred to court for arrest but was released on probation.

“The prosecutor referred me to the high court because I said ‘times will change’ in a speech on FETÖ [the Fethullahist Terror Organization]. Is that a code used by FETÖ members?” he told reporters at the courthouse. 

“All of Turkey, all the world knows that we are living in an era of unlawfulness. In the end, this era of unlawfulness will change. I said it meaning that the right and wrong and the guilty and innocent will be distinguished. The prosecutor said this was a word used in a FETÖ speech. I asked ‘What’s the connection?’ That itself is the unlawfulness. Later the prosecutor referred me to court,” Mahruki said, arguing that his words had been distorted.

The Istanbul 6th criminal court of peace later ordered the release of Mahruki on probation.

Metin Feyzioğlu, the head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TTB), has said it is wrong to interpret Mahruki’s remarks as a “threat,” saying they fell within the framework of the right to criticize. 

Feyzioğlu said the core of democracy was the willingness to accept that today’s rulers could change tomorrow.

Founded in 1996, AKUT is Turkey’s biggest rescue operation NGO and gained widespread acclaim thanks to its responses during natural disasters, especially its efforts after the 1999 Marmara Earthquake that claimed over 17,000 lives.

The association recently made headlines when the Istanbul Governor’s Office ordered it to move out of the building it rented for 49 years, citing rights problems. Mahruki claimed that the decision was politically motivated and noted that it came after he had spoken against President Erdoğan during a TV broadcast.