President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday filed a legal complaint against Meral Akşener, chairman of the opposition İyi (Good) Party, for allegedly insulting him, Turkish news outlets reported.
Erdoğan filed the complaint due to Akşener’s remarks at a rally in Denizli in the run-up to local elections on March 31. According to Erdoğan lawyer Hüseyin Aydın, Akşener said in Denizli on Wednesday said Erdoğan called the people of the province “terrorists” for their political choices.
In his remarks Erdoğan had claimed that an alliance of opposition parties includes the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which he called the political representative of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Erdoğan’s lawyer claimed that the president warned the people against this relationship and urged them to be sensitive to it.
Erdoğan’s lawyer asked for a “case in the name of the public” against Akşener for insulting the president.
Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.
According to the Denge ve Denetleme Ağı, or DDA (Checks and Balances Network), an umbrella civil society group that consists of 271 nongovernmental organizations, 13,000 cases have been filed against individuals over the past seven years based on Article 299. The group said elected individuals should be more tolerant of criticism, satire and accusations, which are a natural result of being in those posts.
The slightest criticism of Erdoğan is considered an insult, and there has been a rise in the number of cases in Turkey in which people inform on others claiming that they insulted the president, the government or government officials.