There has been a significant rise in the number of acts considered crimes against the memory of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, under Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule between 2003 and 2019, according to a report by an opposition deputy.
The report, drafted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chairperson Gamze Akkuş İlgezdi and based on data from the Justice Ministry, showed that while 118 people stood trial in Turkey in 2002 on charges of committing crimes against Atatürk, this number saw a 1,050 percent increase in 2019 as 1,356 people were tried on the same charges that year.
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.
The report showed 5,244 people stood trial for violating Law 5816 between 2003 and 2019. A total of 7,318 people were tried during the 30 years between 1987 and 2017.
In the meantime, 63,041 people were indicted on charges of insulting the president between 2014 and 2019, during the presidency of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to Justice Ministry data. A total of 9,554 of these people were convicted of charges.
However, only 163 people stood trial on charges of insulting the president during the seven-year term in office of 10th President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and 848 people during the term of Abdullah Gül, Erdoğan’s predecessor.
The insult cases against Erdoğan 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.
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.