Turkey’s interior minister files TL 1 million lawsuit against opposition daily

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Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has filed a lawsuit against the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper due to “slanderous” news reports in the daily about the minister, according to Turkish media.

Soylu lawyer Uğur Kızılca said in a statement that his client filed a lawsuit seeking TL 1 million ($115,000) in non-pecuniary damages against Cumhuriyet at an Ankara court, claiming that the daily attacked Soylu’s individual rights and insulted him in its reporting.

The lawyer said Cumhuriyet has published 313 news reports and columns over the past 52 days about Soylu, 254 of which directly targeted the minister. He said the claims against Soylu, reported by the daily, are baseless and slanderous and cannot be considered journalistic activity.

Soylu and his shadowy relations with the mafia have been a hot topic in the Turkish media ever since Sedat Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups and once a staunch supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has since early May been setting the country’s political agenda through videos he posts on YouTube. Having fled to Dubai, the mafia boss has been making shocking revelations about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials and their family members.

Soylu has so far been Peker’s main target, primarily because he ordered a police raid on the gangster’s house in April when his wife and three children were home alone and because he called Peker “a dirty mafia leader” in a tweet.

Peker has claimed that it was connections to his family that had helped Soylu rise through the ranks of the right-wing True Path Party (DYP) before he joined the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2012 at the invitation of Erdoğan. He also claimed that Soylu helped him avoid police prosecution by notifying him that an investigation was being prepared against him, before he fled Turkey in early 2020. The mob boss further said Soylu previously told people that he and Erdoğan “liked” Peker.

Journalists and news organizations frequently face legal harassment in Turkey on charges of insulting Erdoğan or officials from his AKP government.

Turkey ranks 153rd on a list of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index by the Reporters’ Without Borders (RSF).

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