A Turkish court has acquitted a politician from the country’s main opposition party who faced charges of insult for referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a “dictator,” Turkish media outlets reported.
Prosecutors in August 2022 launched an investigation into Canan Kaftancıoğlu, 51, of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on allegations of publicly insulting Erdoğan after she said at an event in İstanbul, “With our democratic norms, we will rid this country of a dictator,” in reference to Erdoğan and hinting at the elections scheduled for 2023.
The investigation by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office was opened after Erdoğan’s lawyers filed a complaint against Kaftancıoğlu, head of the İstanbul branch of the CHP, accusing her of violating the president’s personal rights with “serious insults” and “damaging” his honor and dignity in public remarks.
She was facing a prison sentence of almost five years.
The İstanbul court where Kaftancıoğlu stood trial ruled at the last hearing on Wednesday that the politician’s remarks cannot be considered an insult.
Kaftancıoğlu was present with her lawyer during the hearing, while President Erdoğan was represented by his lawyer.
Erdoğan, who is accused of having established one-man rule in the country by concentrating power under a presidential system of governance, is frequently referred as a “dictator” by his critics and opposition politicians. Many say if Erdoğan is re-elected in the presidential election in May, Turkey will turn into a real dictatorship.
In brief remarks to reporters following the court’s decision, Kaftancıoğlu said she was happy about the court’s ruling, adding that the rule of law will be fully established in the country following the presidential and parliamentary elections of May 14.
In 2019 Kaftancıoğlu was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison on a range of charges including spreading “terrorist propaganda” and insulting Erdoğan, which are mostly related to tweets posted between 2012 and 2017.
Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Kaftancıoğlu, who had been free pending appeal, on three counts that carried a five-year prison sentence in May 2022. She was also banned from politics in a move seen by many observers as intended to sideline her before the 2023 elections.
Kaftancıoğlu, a doctor by profession, played a key role in the surprise victory of the CHP’s Istanbul mayoral candidate, Ekrem Imamoğlu, in the 2019 local elections — the first time Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had lost power in Turkey’s biggest city in 25 years.