The İstanbul Bar Association has filed a criminal complaint against Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a British Muslim convert of Greek heritage and a public speaker who attracted widespread criticism in Turkey for likening Atatürk to the devil, Turkish media reported on Monday.
Tzortzis came to public attention and drew ire with recent remarks at a conference at İstanbul’s Boğaziçi University during which he called on the audience to make a decision whether Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, was a friend of God or the devil after talking about his reforms in the initial years of the Turkish Republic.
One of the students in the audience responded to his question, shouting, “Devil.”
The bar association initiated the complaint against Tzortzis on accusations of blatantly insulting the memory of Atatürk.
A campaign was launched on social media calling on Boğaziçi University to offer an apology for Tzortzis’ remarks on Atatürk.
Tzortzis was invited to the university by the school’s Islamic Research Club, known to be close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Law 5816, titled “The Law Concerning Crimes Committed Against Atatürk,” protects “the memory of Atatürk” from insult by any Turkish citizen. An offense against the memory of Atatürk is punishable by up to three years in prison.