Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has brought legal action on insult charges against 38,581 people during his time in office as president, compared to a total of 1,716 insult cases launched by five presidents before him, according to a report by an opposition lawmaker, according to Turkish media.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairwoman Gülizar Biçer Karaca drafted a report on the insult cases filed during the time in office of the current and last five presidents and found that the number of legal actions during Erdoğan’s tenure has skyrocketed.
Between 1994 and 2014, 1,138 people were tried on charges of insulting the president, but this figure totaled 38,581 between 2014, when Erdoğan was first elected president, and 2020.
Of 6,270 defendants, 2,775 were convicted on insult charges in 2018, while this figure was 4,291 out of 13,990 defendants in 2019 and 3,655 out of 9,773 in 2020.
Only 340 insult cases were filed during the time in office of President Kenan Evren, a former general who overthrew the democratically elected government in 1980.
Two hundred seven legal actions on charges of insulting the president were brought during the time in office of former president Turgut Özal, 163 during the term of former president Ahmet Necdet Sezer, 158 during the term of former president Süleyman Demirel, and 848 during the term of former president Abdullah Gül, the report said.
Critics of Erdoğan argue that the insult cases demonstrate efforts by Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to intimidate the public and opposition parties into not criticizing the government.
The 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.
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.