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Gag order imposed on news reports about Erdoğan aide with fake high school diploma

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An İstanbul court has ruled to impose a gag order on news reports suggesting that an aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used a fake high school diploma to get into university, citing a violation of his personal rights, according to Turkish media reports.

In line with the court decision from the Bakırköy 1st Penal Court of Peace on Monday, an access ban will be imposed on news reports about the alleged fake diploma of Hamza Yerlikaya, a former Olympic wrestler, youth and deputy minister and executive board member of Turkey’s state-run Vakıfbank, in addition to serving as a senior advisor to Erdoğan. These news reports will also be removed from online sources.

The Cumhuriyet daily earlier this month broke the news about Yerlikaya, reporting that he stood trial on charges of forgery of documents at the Ankara 7th High Criminal Court. According to the court’s reasoned decision in 2011, Yerlikaya intentionally used the forged high school diploma based on evidence examined by the court.

Deputy group chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Engin Özkoç, who recently aired a video message about Yerlikaya’s allegedly forged diploma and called on him to resign from public posts, announced on Twitter that access to his video was also banned.

“As a person who was convicted of forgery, how could you be elected to parliament, become an advisor to the president, appointed as a member of the Vakıfbank executive board and earn millions of Turkish lira?” Özkoç asked in his video.

According to the Turkish Parliament website, Yerlikaya has a degree from Süleyman Demirel University’s physical education and sports department. He served in parliament between 2007 and 2011 from Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). He was appointed as a senior advisor to Erdoğan in 2015.

Yerlikaya’s appointment to the Vakıfbank board as an independent member in June led to jokes and ridicule among Turkey’s social media users, who pointed to the wrestler’s lack of knowledge and experience in banking.

The AKP and its leader Erdoğan have been harshly criticized for filling state posts with cronies and eschewing merit-based appointments.

Turkish President Erdoğan is also at the center of a controversy regarding his university degree. There has been an ongoing debate in Turkey since Erdoğan’s 2014 election as president as to his completion or not of university since the Office of the President has provided no satisfactory documentation of his graduation.

Despite several calls for Erdoğan to produce an original copy of his four-year college degree to prove that he is eligible to be president, no evidence has been forthcoming proving the completion of his studies.

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