An 80-year-old woman identified only by the initials E.B. was detained in her Istanbul home on Wednesday after criticizing the monthly earnings of Fahrettin Altun, communications director of the Turkish Presidency, on Twitter, Turkish media reported.
E.B. commented, “We have had enough of your exploitation,” under a tweet that criticized Altun and his wife for receiving double salaries from lucrative positions on the boards of government-linked institutions.
Fahrettin Altun receives a second salary as a board member of the İstanbul Stock Exchange (Borsa İstanbul), while his wife Fatmanur Altun, an academic working at a public university, also sits on the board of Turkish Airlines (THY). Both companies are owned by Turkey’s sovereign wealth fund and are effectively controlled by the Turkish government.
Zeynel Emre from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said from his Twitter account that the police raided E.B.’s house and detained her, despite the fact that her family members said she was chronically ill and that her age put her at high risk of COVID-19. They asked the police to question her at home instead of taking her to the police station, to which the police said they had to ask the prosecutor.
“The prosecutor did not allow the police to question the woman at home, and she was taken to a courthouse,” said Emre.
Emre claimed that Altun himself had filed a complaint against the tweet and the comments under it. “The prosecutor wants the woman to be tried under Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code,” he said.
Article 125 stipulates that any person who attributes an act, or fact, to a person in a manner that may impugn that person’s honor, dignity or prestige, or attacks someone’s honor, dignity, or prestige in foul language shall be sentenced to between three months and two years’ imprisonment or will be levied a judicial fine.
According to Emre the law is “tailored” to work to the benefit of pro-government politicians as the comment contained no kind of insult whatsoever.
Deputy chairman of the CHP’s parliamentary group Özgür Özel put the Altun family’s earnings under the spotlight at a parliamentary hearing in 2019 and said Fatmanur Altun was on the board of THY thanks to her husband’s connections. He claimed on his Twitter account on December 3 that not only did the couple receive several salaries, but that Altun gave himself a 20 percent raise and made the İstanbul Stock Exchange pay the taxes for his extra salaries.
Members of the opposition harshly criticized the Altuns, emphasizing that it is completely unethical for the couple to use their influence to take several well-paying positions in public institutions and receive double salaries.
When the news first broke in 2019, an Ankara court banned access to critical tweets about the issue, claiming that these social media posts could infringe on Fahrettin Altun’s personal rights and damage the institutional reputation of the presidency.
Fatmanur Altun hit back at the critiques with a long article in which she said those criticizing her extra salary were “traitors.”