Erdogan threatens Turkish opposition leader with arrest for 'indecent' insults

Erdogan threatens Turkish opposition leader with arrest for 'indecent' insults
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday filed a legal complaint against IYI Party leader Meral Aksener for calling him 'spoiled' and 'arrogant'.
3 min read
10 March, 2019
Meral Aksener, leader of the IYI Party, called Erdogan 'spoiled' [Anadolu]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday threatened one of the country’s opposition leaders with arrest for calling him "spoiled" and "arrogant".

Erdogan said he filed a legal complaint against Meral Aksener, leader of the nationalist Good Party (IYI), Oda TV reported.

"He became spoiled, he became arrogant, he was saying he was among you [the people], but now he is travelling with 300 bodyguards, with 20 different cars in order to conceal which one he is in," the IYI Party leader said at an election really earlier this week.

Turkish political parties are currently campaigning in the run up to the 31 March local elections.

Aksener’s comments were "indecent", the president claimed at an election rally in eastern Turkey.

Turkish law criminalises insulting the president. The law, which carries up to a four year sentence, has never been so frequently used as it has been under the fifteen-year rule of Erdogan, variously as prime minister and president of the country.

Journalists, politicians and other public figures have been prosecuted under the law.

Convictions for "insulting the president" have risen dramatically over the past few years, from 132 in 2014 to more than 6,000 in 2017.

Human Rights Watch has called the law a "mockery of human rights".

Aksener has "no place to hide", said Erdogan, pointing to the fact that the IYI Party leader is not an elected member of parliament and thus lacks parliamentary immunity.

Parliamentary immunity has not hindered the imprisonment of members of the opposition Kurdish-led People's Democratic Party (HDP). Ahmet Yildirim was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in 2016 alongside other members of the party, who were accused of propagandising for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a separatist armed group Turkey deems a terrorist organisation.

Yildirim was later charged with "insulting the president" in 2018.

"Look at the ones serving time in prison, the FETO members serving time, you can find yourself in the same position," Erdogan said.

FETO, or the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation, is the Turkish government moniker for the Gulen movement, which it accused of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.

At least 77,000 people have arrested and around 130,000 others have lost their jobs in the public sector for alleged associations with Gulen since 2016.

Hundreds of private companies have also been forced to close or pass into the control of the government.

Oppositional media organisations have also been hit hard in the crackdown, during which many of those targeted face thin evidence of their association with Gulen.

"Anyone who is silent in the face of injustice is a mute devil. Are you threatening me for speaking the truth, Recep Tayyip Erdogan?", Aksener responded on Twitter.

The IYI Party formed in 2017 when members of the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) broke from the party, largely due to dissatisfaction with its alliance with Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). It has billed itself as a softer alternative to the ethnic nationalism of the MHP and a secular alternative to the AKP.