Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Tuesday posted a caricature on Twitter called “Tayyipler Âlemi” (World of Tayyips), which had previously caused the arrest of four Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) students for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying a president should be able to tolerate criticism and humor.
“You can’t avoid criticism and humor by jailing people,” Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted.
During the ODTÜ graduation ceremony on July 6 a group of students carried a placard bearing the caricature, which was first published in 2006 by the Penguen political satire magazine.
Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan filed a lawsuit against the magazine; however, an Ankara court had dismissed the suit, citing freedom of expression.
Still, three students who held the placard during the ceremony and one who helped them bring it to the venue in her car were arrested by a court last week.
Kılıçdaroğlu also brought up the issue in his weekly speech at the CHP’s parliamentary group meeting.
“There’s no insult in the placard they carried, but rather brilliance. One has to be intelligent enough to recognize that,” he said.
ODTÜ’s graduation ceremonies for years have had a tradition of humorous and critical placards about current political developments in Turkey.
“[Adolf] Hitler was like that, [Benito] Mussolini was like that, you have to tolerate the criticism,” he added, comparing Erdoğan to notorious dictators of modern times.