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Opposition politician acquitted of insult charges in case involving Erdoğan aide

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Canan Kaftancıoğlu, a politician from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has been acquitted of charges of insulting Fahrettin Altun, communications director for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish media reported.

The Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office in October 2021 submitted an indictment requesting up to two years’ imprisonment for Kaftancıoğlu on charges of insulting a public official.

The investigation was based on a complaint submitted in April 2020. The prosecutor claimed that Kaftancıoğlu insulted Altun by commenting on construction carried out without a permit at Altun’s house in the Üsküdar district of İstanbul.

The İstanbul’s 40th Criminal Court of First Instance ruled on Wednesday to acquit Kaftancıoğlu of the charges leveled against her on the grounds that there was no element of crime.

Kaftancıoğlu, seen as one of the architects of her party’s success in the 2019 local elections in İstanbul when the CHP candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu, ended the years-long rule of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (CHP) in the city, has been facing legal harassment frequently since then.

In May Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a political ban and prison sentence for the politician, which attracted widespread condemnation and anger from opposition politicians as well as members of the country’s intelligentsia.

In 2019 Kaftancıoğlu was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison on a range of charges including spreading “terrorist propaganda” and insulting President Erdoğan, which were mostly related to tweets posted between 2012 and 2017.

The top court upheld the conviction of Kaftancıoğlu, who had been free pending appeal, on three counts that carried a prison term of almost five years. She was also banned from politics in a move seen by many observers as intended to sideline her before the June 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The sentence given to Kaftancıoğlu prohibits her from running in this year’s elections.

Rights groups and dissidents regularly accuse Erdoğan and his AKP government of using the judiciary as a political tool, particularly after thousands of judges were purged in the wake of an attempted coup in 2016.

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