Turkey’s main opposition leader will stand trial on charges of “insulting a public officer” due to his statements about a former minister implicated in the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption investigation, journalist Barış Terkoğlu said in a column in the Cumhuriyet daily on Thursday.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was ordered to appear in court as a defendant in a summons sent on Sept. 11. Kılıçdaroğlu lost his parliamentary immunity when he declined to run for a seat in the legislature in the May general election and instead competed against incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the position of head of state.
Erdoğan was the winner of a May 28 runoff that will extend his 20-year rule until 2028. He received 52.1 percent of the nationwide vote, while his main rival, opposition candidate Kılıçdaroğlu, got 47.8 percent.
According to Terkoğlu, Kılıçdaroğlu’s trial will start on March 7, 2024 at the İstanbul 51st Criminal Court of First Instance and the prosecutor, who drafted the indictment on Oct. 31, 2016, is seeking a prison sentence of between one year, two months and two years, four months in addition to a ban on engaging in politics.
The CHP leader faces trial due to his remarks in a speech during a meeting of his party in İstanbul on Nov. 26, 2014 in which he talked about the Dec. 17-25 bribery and corruption investigations that shook the country back in 2013 and referred to some of the government officials as “thieves.”
The probe implicated, among others, the family members of four cabinet ministers as well as the children of then-prime minister and current President Erdoğan.
Erdoğan Bayraktar, the former Turkish minister of environment and urban planning and one of the four cabinet members implicated in the probe, filed the complaint against Kılıçdaroğlu that was ultimately turned into an indictment. A trial was initiated after the CHP leader lost his parliamentary immunity.
Terkoğlu quoted Kılıçdaroğlu’s lawyer, Celal Çelik, as saying that the politician was “happy” to be informed of the case filed against him and issued instructions for a full verification of all the facts involved in the case.
“Through this trial, we will have the chance to prove all the corruption that took place during the period of Dec. 17-25,” Çelik said.
Terkoğlu stated that the fact that the leader of the main opposition party, one of the main elements of a democracy, will be tried for criticizing the government’s corruption, would “leave a black stain on Turkey’s democratic history.”
So far, parliament has received 28 summaries of proceedings about the CHP leader that encompass a range of charges, including insult, threat, slander, praising a crime and a criminal, attempting to influence judicial proceedings, insulting public officials due to their duties, inciting hatred and hostility among the public and disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.