Turkey: Tens of thousands prosecuted for “insulting” Erdogan

It is sadly ironic that “insulting the president” is one of the few issues about which there is no governmental discrimination along socioeconomic


The criminalization in Turkey of “insulting the president” reached a new low in early March, when a father and daughter in Ankara accused one another of engaging in the punishable offense, as part of an internal family feud.

According to Istanbul Bilgi University professor of law, Yaman Akdeniz, since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 2014 election, there have been 66,691 “insult investigations” launched, resulting in 12,305 trials thus far, and the “numbers are increasing.”

Özgür Aktütün, chairman of the Sociology Alumni Association, told the independent Turkish daily BirGün that although Turkey has been “a society of informants” since the Ottoman Empire, “what is striking in recent times is the [rampant] use of [whistleblowing] on every issue.”

“Insulting the president” is a crime according to Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code, adopted in 1926. If convicted, violators face up to four years in prison – and longer, when the insult is public.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) decries this practice. In October 2018, Benjamin Ward, HRW acting director for Europe and Central Asia said:

“Turkish courts have convicted thousands of people in the past four years simply for speaking out against the president. The government should stop this mockery of human rights and respect people in Turkey’s right to peaceful free expression.”

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