In remarks that came as confusing and untrue to many, Turkey’s justice minister has said nobody is investigated in Turkey for posting tweets but rather for the content of their tweets, according to Turkish media outlets.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ made the controversial remarks while commenting on a prison sentence handed down to an opposition politician due to a tweet she posted years ago.
Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals on May 12 upheld a prison sentence for Canan Kaftancıoğlu, 50, the head of the İstanbul branch of the country’s main opposition party, in a crackdown on government critics ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
In 2019 Kaftancıoğlu, from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was originally sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison on a range of charges including “terrorist propaganda” and insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The charges related mostly to tweets Kaftancıoğlu posted between 2012 and 2017. She had been free pending appeal.
The top court approved her conviction on three counts and a prison term of four years, 11 months and 20 days.
“There is not one person in Turkey who faces an investigation for posting a tweet. Investigations are launched due to what they have written in their tweets,” said Bozdağ, speaking during a TV program on the pro-government Kanal7 TV station over the weekend.
The minister’s remarks led to criticism as well as ridicule and jokes on social media, with some Twitter users posting blank tweets, saying that such tweets are what Bozdağ is talking about that would not trigger an investigation.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, an opposition lawmaker and a prominent human rights activist who was jailed last year for posting a tweet in 2016, was outraged by the minister’s remarks.
“Even the crows would laugh at your remarks. I was jailed for 96 days not even for posting a tweet but for retweeting one. So you are saying it would not be a problem if I had posted a tweet. You are so ridiculous, esteemed minister,” Gergerlioğlu tweeted, tagging the minister’s Twitter account.
senin lafına kargalar bile güler!
Ben tweet bile atmadım retweetlemiştim ve 96 gün cezaevinde kaldım. Demek tweet atsam sorun olmayacaktı!!!
Ne kadar gülünçsün Sayın Bakan.!? https://t.co/v2k7c6SMM5
— Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu (@gergerliogluof) May 22, 2022
In a move that sparked shockwaves in Turkey and the international community, Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was last year expelled from parliament and subsequently jailed due to a prison sentence he was handed down for a retweet in 2016 on terrorist propaganda charges.
The retweet in question was about a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue, which concerns Kurds’ demands for equal cultural and political rights.
Thousands of people face legal proceedings in Turkey and dozens are jailed due to their social media messages, which according to Turkish authorities, include insults of President Erdoğan or his government or disseminate terrorist propaganda. Turkey is harshly criticized by international rights groups for curbing free speech and using the judiciary to silence government critics.