17 women’s rights activists face prison for insulting Erdoğan

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A Turkish court has accepted an indictment that seeks prison sentences for 17 women’s rights activists on charges that include insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a March 8, 2021 International Women’s Day gathering in İstanbul, Turkish media reported.

The women’s right activists had chanted slogans at the end of the Feminist Night March on March 8 in the Beyoğlu neighborhood of İstanbul.

In an operation ordered by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office against 18 women’s rights activists, the Istanbul police detained 13 of them, including a 17-year-old minor, late on the night of March 10. The five others presented themselves to the prosecutor the next day. On March 11, an Istanbul court imposed travel bans on 17 women, and additional judicial supervision orders on five activists including the child, requiring them to sign in at a police station on a regular basis until further notice.

The 10th Criminal Court of First Instance accepted the indictment against the defendants in which the prosecutor sought prison terms ranging between two and eight years for the defendants on charges of organizing, leading and participating in unlawful gatherings and insulting the president.

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to 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.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) had urged Turkish authorities to immediately halt the criminal investigation launched into the women’s rights activists for shouting slogans.

Journalist Burcu Karakaş tweeted a photo of a police document that included questions directed at the detained women during their interrogation.

“It has been discovered in video footage that you chanted slogans saying, ‘Run Tayyip run, the women are coming.’ What were you aiming for in chanting this slogan?” was one of the questions the women were asked.

Another slogan chanted by the women was “Jump, jump those who don’t jump are Tayyip.”

The women were allegedly identified according to whether or not they jumped to the slogan because they were wearing masks against the coronavirus and their mouths were covered.

Insult cases generally originate 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.

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