Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a lawsuit against main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu seeking TL 500,000 ($32,300) in damages on allegations of “insulting the president,” local media reported on Friday.
The development was announced by Erdoğan’s lawyer, Hüseyin Aydın, who said in a written statement that a petition had been filed with the Ankara Civil Court of First Instance after the CHP leader “attacked the president’s personal rights” in a public speech on May 12.
In a speech delivered on Thursday, Kılıçdaroğlu blasted the Turkish leader after Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the prison sentence of a top CHP official.
The CHP leader on Thursday addressed hundreds of people gathered in front of the party’s İstanbul headquarters upon his call to protest a jail sentence handed down to CHP İstanbul chairperson Canan Kaftancıoğlu on charges of insulting the president and the Turkish state in tweets posted between 2012 and 2017. She had been free pending the appeal.
“You are a hypocrite. You are an opportunist. You are a manipulator. But your oppression and insolence are coming to an end,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, addressing the president.
Erdoğan is seeking TL 500,000 ($32,300) in damages from Kılıçdaroğlu over the alleged insult, local media reports said.
Opponents of Erdoğan see the ruling against CHP’s İstanbul chair as a crackdown on the opposition ahead of next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment over alleged insults of President Erdoğan.
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.
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 the president or his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government as an insult.