Pro-gov’t TV presenter avoids prosecution for insult of Armenian deputy

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Özlem Özcan (L) and Garo Paylan

The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office has declined to investigate pro-government A Haber TV presenter Özlem Özcan, who called Garo Paylan, an Armenian deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), “degenerate,” Cumhuriyet reported on Wednesday.

“If my ancestors carried out a genocide, how could degenerate [baseborn] people like you be in Parliament?” said Özcan on A Haber TV, in response to a statement by Paylan in the General Assembly in January.

“Degenerate” is one of the harsh words used in Turkey to insult.

“Once we [Armenians] were 40 percent [of the population]. Today we are one in a thousand. Anyhow, something happened to us that… I call it genocide, whatever you call it. Lets name it together and continue on our way. Armenians know what happened to them. I know very well what happened to my ancestors, my grandfathers,” said Paylan during his speech in Parliament.

Claiming that Paylan’s statement “could cause public unrest,” prosecutor Mehmet Taştan said politicians should be flexible when it comes to criticism.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed around 2,000 cases against individuals on charges of insulting him since he was elected to the presidency in August 2014.

Last month an Ankara court declined to hear an insult case filed by renowned Professor Baskın Oran against President Erdoğan for using the words “immoral,” “vile,” “disgusting,” “ignorant” and “traitor” to describe academics who signed a peace declaration in January 2016 criticizing curfews declared in predominantly Kurdish southeastern districts, saying the president’s remarks were within the limits of free speech.

Turkish pianist Dengin Ceyhan was arrested last month for allegedly insulting President Erdoğan in social media posts.

As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation on suspicion of terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media.

According to figures released by the Ministry of Interior Affairs in December, 3,710 social media users had been investigated in the last six months of 2016, of whom 1,656 were arrested. A total of 1,203 of those investigations resulted in releases on probation.

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