A total of 9,168 criminal cases were opened against people in Turkey on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last year, with 305 minors appearing in court on insult charges during that time period, the ANKA news agency reported on Wednesday, citing an opposition lawmaker.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chairperson Muharrem Erkek on Wednesday said during a press conference at party headquarters in Ankara, citing judicial statistics for 2021, that 305 defendants under the age of 18 appeared in court on Erdoğan insult charges last year, with 22 of them convicted of the offense.
“… the statistics are dire. The arbitrariness and unlawfulness imposed under the presidential system of governance are increasing injustice [faced by] all segments of society. Actually, there shouldn’t be a crime called ‘insulting the president’ in this monstrous system. … They even prosecute children,” Erkek said.
Turkey switched from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidential system through a referendum in April 2017, granting Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sweeping powers. The new system was criticized for removing constitutional checks and balances and thus leading to a further weakening of Turkish democracy.
Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment, over alleged insults of President Erdoğan. 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 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.