Cases were launched into a total of 63,041 people on charges of insulting the president over the past five years, beginning with the election of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the presidency in 2014 to the end of 2019, according to a report from an opposition deputy.
The report, drafted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Ali Mahir Başarır, shows that 9,554 of the people facing insult charges were convicted.
Başarır said the number of cases filed on charges of insulting the president have dramatically increased during Erdoğan’s time in office since similar cases were rarely filed during the terms of previous presidents.
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.
“Whoever criticizes the government is detained. The government always wants to hear praise [for its actions]. People talk about the social and economic problems they face on social media or in street interviews and face detention when they make the slightest criticism of the government. This attitude does not comply with the principles of a state of law,” said Başarır.
In the latest example İsmail Demirbaş, who criticized the government for its crackdown on dissent in October in a street interview on a YouTube channel, was arrested earlier this week after he was briefly detained twice in late-night raids in the southern province of Antalya.
The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of Erdoğan or his government as an insult.