Muhtar protesting palace meetings arrested for insulting statesmen

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Hatice Bender

Hatice Bender, a muhtar, or neighborhood head, who did not participate in meetings held for muhtars in the palace of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was arrested for insulting statesmen on her social media account, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Saturday.

“A new article has been invented that does not exist in the TCK [Turkish Penal Code]. Citizens are being arrested under this invented article,” said Barış Yarkadaş, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy, reacting to the court decision in a Twitter message on Saturday.

“She was clear about her choice. They want her to pay a price. If Hatice Bender had gone to the palace and praised [Erdoğan] she would not be under arrest, and the opportunities of the state and municipalities would be in her service instead. She was sent to prison because she did not obey the authority.”

In a similar development in early January, Gökhan Bahadır, a muhtar in the Vakfıkebir district of Trabzon province, faced an investigation because he refused to attend the regular meetings President Erdoğan holds at his presidential palace with muhtars.

Çay neighborhood muhtar Bahadır came to public attention with his statements in July. Back then, he said he would not attend muhtar meetings at Erdoğan’s palace because it would violate his impartiality as a muhtar since Erdoğan is acting like a president from a political party.

Erdoğan is required by the Turkish Constitution to act impartially; however, he has been behaving like the Justice and Development Party (AKP) chairman since his election to the top state post in August 2014.

Cumhuriyet said an investigation had been launched into Bahadır on charges of insulting Erdoğan and that a summary of proceedings had been submitted to the Justice Ministry, but the ministry refused to allow any charges to be pressed because Erdoğan had withdrawn all the insult cases he filed against individuals in the summer.

Erdoğan announced that he was withdrawing insult cases he filed against individuals, citing an environment of solidarity in the country in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15.

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