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CSO chair accused of insulting Erdoğan with ‘mediocre guy’ remark

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An investigation has been launched into a civil society organization (CSO) chairperson on accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a tweet in which she used the words “mediocre guy” when criticizing Turkey’s exit from the Istanbul Convention, local media reported on Wednesday.

Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he pulled the country out of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies.

“Why would your opinion matter, you mediocre guy?” Nebiye Merttürk, the chairperson of the Halkevleri (People’s Houses) – a civil society organization defending human rights and offering free courses in literature, drama, music, fine arts, speaking and writing as well as handicrafts and sewing – tweeted on March 20, the day Erdoğan withdrew from the accord.

According to Turkish media reports, Merttürk explained in testimony to a prosecutor that the sentence she tweeted was a slogan that refers to “all the men who meddle in women’s decisions about their own lives.”

“Even if the slogan referred to Erdoğan in this case, it wouldn’t amount to an insult since, as a citizen of this country, I have every right to criticize anyone who rules it as harshly as I want,” she argued.

Merttürk is also accused of “inciting hatred and hostility among the people.”

Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment, over alleged insults of President Erdoğan. 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.

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.

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