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Opposition vice chair accused of libeling Erdoğan with booklet on Gülen movement

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An indictment accusing Gökçe Gökçen, vice chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), of libeling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a result of a booklet she published claiming the existence of a political wing in the Gülen movement has been accepted by an Ankara court, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Friday.

The CHP-produced book, titled “The Political Wing of FETÖ in 21 Questions,” details an alleged political wing of the faith-based Gülen movement, which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has labeled a terrorist organization and which it accuses of having orchestrated a coup attempt in July 2016.

FETÖ is a derogatory term coined by the Turkish government to refer to the Gülen movement, which is inspired by the teachings of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen and strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

CHP party spokesperson Faik Öztrak announced in October 2020 that a Turkish court ruled to ban the publication, distribution and sale of the book, which includes a speech by CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in parliament on Feb. 11, 2020 regarding the alleged political wing of the Gülen movement.

The ruling AKP previously rejected calls by the CHP for a parliamentary investigation into the alleged political establishment of the faith-based movement.

According to the report, three separate cases on seven counts were filed against the CHP’s Gökçen because she is the publisher of the book.

The indictment drafted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and recently accepted by the Ankara 18th High Criminal Court accuses Gökçen of violating Articles 267 and 310 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which stipulate punishment for “libel” and “character assassination of the president,” respectively.

Gökçen faces at least five years in prison, Cumhuriyet said.

Speaking to Cumhuriyet, Gökçen described the indictment as “tragicomic” and emphasized that it will not stop her from fighting for freedom and democracy in Turkey.

“Those who rule the country have been increasing pressure on young people and women, when they should have been listening to their problems. We, as the CHP, also suffer from oppression because we offer sincere solutions to people’s problems and show them that a more hopeful Turkey is possible,” she added.

The CHP claims criteria extensively used to launch judicial proceedings against Gülen movement followers in a massive crackdown following the 2016 coup attempt are ignored for AKP politicians. For example, sending a child to a Gülen-linked school, having a bank account at a Gülen-affiliated bank or subscribing to publications close to the movement are considered criminal evidence for regular citizens and not for AKP politicians.

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