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Man who designed stickers blaming Erdoğan for high prices briefly detained for ‘insult’

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A man who designed stickers that hold Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his far-right ally Devlet Bahçeli responsible for high prices in stores was briefly detained for “insulting the president,” ANKA news agency reported on Friday.

A social media account named “Youth will oust [the government]” earlier this week shared photos of products sold in stores with stickers on them that say “Do you find this product expensive? It’s because of Erdoğan. Keep that in mind when you cast your vote.”

Some of the stickers included a photo of Bahçeli, in addition to Erdoğan, and said, “This product is expensive because of us. Think about it when you cast your vote.”

Mahir Akkoyun, who designed the stickers criticizing the high prices announced on social media on Friday morning that he was being detained in the western province of İzmir.

Akkoyun’s lawyer, Berfin Kaya, told ANKA that her client was detained after an investigation was launched into him on the allegation of “insulting the president” due to sharing his designs that are critical of Erdoğan and Bahçeli on Twitter.

Akkoyun, who was sent to the courthouse after being taken into custody, was released later the same day.

Akkoyun’s detention sparked condemnation on social media, with users calling on Turkey’s opposition to stand by him.

“The opposition needs to support [Mahir Akkoyun] loudly and unequivocally. … The opposition has to stand with him and amplify his voice and cause,” a Twitter user named Can Okar said.

Erdoğan, who is held responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis of his time in office and a poor response to twin earthquakes that killed tens of thousands and left millions homeless in the country’s south in early February, is facing the toughest election in his 20-year rule in May, with an increasing number of opinion surveys showing him falling behind his main rival.

Journalist and editor David Lepeska shared other of Akkoyun’s designs that criticize the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The designs include the AKP’s election campaign slogan “Turkish Century” with photos that highlight collapsed buildings and mass graves after the February earthquakes.

More than 40 percent of Turkey’s workforce earns the minimum wage mandated by law, which was set for a third time by the government last year at TL 8,500 lira ($442) due to the loss in value of the lira.

Turkey’s poor have been hit the hardest by an economic crisis that saw the official annual rate of inflation reach 85 percent last year.

Turkey’s latest economic crisis started when Erdoğan — a lifelong opponent of high interest rates — pressured the central bank to bring down chronically high consumer prices by lowering borrowing costs.

Conventional economic theory urges policymakers to fight inflation by curbing demand and raising the price of doing business through higher interest rates.

Erdoğan’s approach set off a currency crisis that saw the lira lose nearly half its value in a matter of weeks in late 2021.

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