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13 detained ahead of elections over defamation alleged by former presidential candidate

On the eve of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections, 13 people have been detained in connection with a series of social media posts targeting Muharrem İnce, leader of the Homeland Party and a former presidential candidate.

Among those taken into custody is Kemal Özkiraz, a pollster and president of the Eurasia Public Research Center (AKAM), known for his criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The detentions come as part of an investigation initiated after İnce called for action on his social media account, alleging a targeted defamation campaign against him, which included pictures and phone conversations purportedly showing him in an extramarital affair. These allegations prompted İnce’s withdrawal from the presidential race earlier this week.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office stated that a thorough investigation had been launched into the claims leveled by İnce on May 10 on allegations of “blackmail,” “threat,” “document forgery,” “unlawful acquisition and dissemination of personal data” and “invasion of privacy.”

Out of the 17 people for whom detention warrants were issued, 13 have been taken into custody, while the remaining four are currently abroad. Following processing at the police department, four of the detainees were referred to court. Procedures for the other suspects, who were detained in different cities and brought to Ankara, are still ongoing.

This latest development adds another layer of complexity to an already heated election season, with President Erdoğan facing his main opposition in the form of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Özkiraz, the detained pollster, had previously criticized İnce’s presidential bid, arguing that it served as a lifeline for Erdoğan.

Currently, Erdoğan is trailing Kılıçdaroğlu in most polls amid a cost of living crisis and a criticized response to devastating earthquakes in February that claimed more than 50,000 lives.

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