Turkey: Erdogan Sues Opposition Leader for Calling Him a ‘Sham Dictator’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sued opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu after he called the president a “sham dictator.”

Turkish Penal Code, Article 299, makes it “a criminal offense to insult the president.” The offender may receive one to four years in prison.

“There is no public interest in the speech subject to the case. The defendant did not taken public interest into account while criticizing our client; he has exceeded the boundaries of criticism and attacked the personality rights of our client, while it was possible to make criticism with expressions other than these unfair and unlawful expressions,” wrote Erdoğan’s lawyers in their petition filing.

They also demanded Kılıçdaroğlu pay Erdoğan 100,000 Turkish Liras ($32,897.44) for damages.

Erdoğan took his rival to court in September 2015 after Kılıçdaroğlu played “leaked tape recordings involving corruption claims that engulfed former government officials during his tenure as prime minister.”

A year ago, officials arrested former Miss Turkey Merve Buyuksarac because she quoted a poem on social media that insults the president.

In March, the police arrested a 13-year-old boy in the middle of class over an insult against Erdoğan on Facebook. A few weeks later, a court sentenced two cartoonists to 11 months in prison over a cartoon that implied the president is homosexual.

The government even forced a private firm to fire a cleaning lady after she allegedly insulted Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Facebook. At first, the firm refused to fire her, but changed their minds when officials threatened to award the cleaning contract to another firm.

Authorities detained a 17-year-old at the end of the year for allegedly mocking the president on Facebook.

Erdoğan also targets the media, even though he once claimed his country has the “world’s freest press.”

“Nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in Turkey. I’m very sure of myself when I say this. The press is so free in Turkey that one can make insults, slanders, defamation, racism and commit hate crimes that are not tolerated even in democratic countries,” he declared in December 2014.

Many have questioned such a claim following a series of raids against media companies. Authorities raided Doğan Media Group in September, which owns Hürriyet Daily News and CNN Türk, in late 2015. A pro-government publication complained to authorities that Hurriyet had published “uncensored photographs of dead Turkish soldiers.” The complaint also included an interview by CNN Türk with an activist who later joined the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

They also targeted Turkish magazine Nokta after they published an illustration of Erdoğan taking a selfie next to a soldier’s coffin. The officers also seized remaining copies from the newsroom. Kalın warned reporters against insulting the president.

“It is never possible to consider insulting the presidential office within freedom of expression,” he said at a Tuesday press conference. “Attacking the presidential office to score small political goals with small political estimations is not politics. Trying to become the center of attention by attacking the presidency and our president’s personality and his family is not journalism. It is often just common activism or militarism.”

Officers arrested three VICE News journalists in early September on “terrorism” charges due to alleged ties with the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Yet, evidence showed the journalists interviewed members of the PKK.

On September 4, police ransacked the offices of opposition paper Bugün after the publication ran a story that claimed Turkey sent weapons to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria. The paper included pictures that allegedly show the weapon exchange.