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Kılıçdaroğlu vows to repeal law on insulting president if elected

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Leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has promised to repeal a law that is used to prosecute people who criticize the country’s president on charges of insult if he is elected to the top state post, Deutsche Welle Turkish edition reported.

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.

Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey will get rid of this scandalous law under the administration of the Nation Alliance, a bloc of six opposition parties that nominated the CHP leader as their joint presidential candidate.

“We will re-establish freedom of expression under the rule of the Nation Alliance. No youngster will be detained in the wee hours of the morning just because they posted a tweet [critical of the president],” Kılıçdaroğlu said as he answered a question from DW about this controversial article if he is elected president.

 Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment, over alleged insults of President Recep Tayyip 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.

Kılıçdaroğlu’s main contender in the presidential vote, scheduled to be held on May 14, is Erdoğan, whose lawyers are quick to take legal action against people who criticize Erdoğan on the grounds that they insulted the president.

Statistics show that a large number of insult investigations and prosecutions have taken place during Erdoğan’s time in office.

Since Erdoğan was first elected president in 2014, more than 160,000 people have been investigated on allegations of insult; criminal charges have been filed against 45,000 of them; and 13,000 people have been convicted of the crime of insulting the president.

Kılıçdaroğlu said Article 299 of the TCK was created for earlier presidents who severed their political affiliation after they were elected but that Turkey switched to a presidential system of governance in 2017, which made it possible for a president to remain the leader of a political party. He said this article has been turned into a “tool of revenge” under Erdoğan’s rule to punish his critics.

The CHP chairman said since Article 299 limits freedom of expression, his government would take immediate action for its repeal.

“People will wake up to a free Turkey on the morning of May 15,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

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