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Sun, 17 Nov 2019 11:59 GMT

Erdoğan Uses 'Insulting the President' Charges to Hit Back at Opponents


Jiwan Soz

Mon, 04 Nov 2019 15:43 GMT

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not only punished the supporters and leaders of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (PDP) inside the country for the successive loss of his party in parliamentary and local elections, but also resorted to punish supporters and leaders of the Republican People's Party, which opposes his remaining in power, as dozens of the party members now are sent to jail. This is happening while Turkey's courts are charging party leaders, including senior party official Canan Kaftancıoğlu, who played a major supportive role in the election campaign of Ekram Emamoglu, her party's candidate who won the Istanbul municipal election twice this year.  

Kaftancıoğlu currently faces up to 10 years in prison, while the two former co-presidents of the Peoples' Democratic Party, Salahuddin Demirtas and Vigan Yukskag Dag, have been in jail for nearly three years. Ankara has not released them despite requests by the European Court of Human Rights over and over again. 

Ankara is accusing them of "spreading terrorist propaganda" and "affiliation" to outlawed groups, although Kaftancıoğlu is a member of a legally recognised political party with representation in parliament. The same applies to another party led by Demirtas and Yuksk Dag, which is also licensed as a political current, and is legally recognised with representation in parliament. 

Therefore, it can be said that Erdoğan is trying to eliminate the two main opposition parties in the country: The "Republican People" and "Democratic Peoples". But he is not content with fighting leaders of those political parties, taking advantage of his broad powers after amending the system of the government in Turkey from parliamentary to presidential. Ankara sacked the heads of three Kurdish municipalities belonging to the Democratic People's Party in the country. 

What is funny about the dismissal of Kurdish mayors is that the Higher Election Committee did not object to their candidacy for the presidency of the predominantly Kurdish south-eastern municipalities, nor did they object to their victory, which means that the Turkish Interior Minister's decision to appoint agents instead is merely one of Erdoğan’s desires. "Its aim is to dominate the entire state, especially since the agents appointed by the Interior Ministry to head the Kurdish municipalities are members of Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party." 

Even funnier is that the judicial authorities in Turkey are using the pretext of ‘affiliation’ to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the country, to charge anyone whoever he is, even Turkish citizens unrelated to the Kurds. The irony here is that the judicial authorities have recently accused a Turkish Christian journalist of affiliation to the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen group. 

All this means that Erdoğan aims to eliminate all his Kurdish and their loyal opponents within their party as well as the secular Turks in the Republican People's Party (CHP), together with journalists who do not work for his party's media machine and who are not loyal to him, no matter how the charges are repeated, ridiculous or unrealistic. 

Apart from the previous charges, such as affiliation to a ‘terrorist group’ or ‘spreading propaganda’ in their favor, another charge now being the most commonly used in the country is the crime of "insulting the President of the Republic." 

This charge, according to Article 299 of the Constitution of the Turkish Law, is liable to imprisonment for one year to several years, as well as to paying a fine, a charge which resulted in the arrest of several members of the Turkish Parliament. 

The Turkish Justice Ministry reveals that about 13,000 people, including painters, artists and journalists, have been prosecuted since 2017 for "insulting the president." According to the ministry's statements, most of them were subjected to various penalties ranging from one year to 10 years imprisonment. 

Ankara also imposes punishment for this crime even outside its borders. It happened that loyal gunmen in Syria have punished a Syrian national by putting him in jail in al-Bab city for months for "insulting" Erdoğan. 

That way and against the backdrop of these ready-made charges, Erdoğan managed to block his opposition from secular Kurds and Turks. In the same way, he imposed a blockade around journalists, bloggers and public opinion makers in the country, while his gunmen in Syria are trying to punish anyone who dares to criticise Turkey or Erdoğan.  

A few days ago, a Turkish lawyer initiated criminal proceedings against US President Donald Trump for "insulting President Erdoğan" following Trump's most recent letter in which he called him a "fool", wrongly taking Washington for Ankara where anyone who criticises Erdoğan is punished. 

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