Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s lawyer said that referring to the president as a Jew is insulting and damaging to his prestige and honor, in the case of a man who was convicted of insulting the president by calling him a secret Jew, Turkish Minute reported on Friday.
Erdoğan’s lawyer, Hüseyin Aydın, claimed in his petition to court that the defendant slandered the president by saying, “Tayyip is a Jew who pretends to be a Muslim.”
A court in western Turkey on Thursday imposed a fine of TL 7,000 ($720) on Yüksel Üstün, who in a post on his Facebook page wrote in 2020, “Tayyip is a Jew who pretends to be Muslim.” He was indicted by the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on charges of insulting the president.
Üstün’s lawyer, Baran Güneş, told the court at the last hearing of the trial on Thursday that Jews are honorable citizens of Turkey and that calling someone a Jew or Roma cannot be considered a crime.
Yet, the court did not acquit Üstün and imposed the fine.
Jews, Armenians and Greeks communities in Turkey, regarded as minorities under the Lausanne Peace Treaty dated 1923, are frequently the subject of insults and hate language. They often complain of being considered second-class citizens in a country where “Armenian, Greek or Jew” is often considered a curse.
Erdoğan, who was prime minister in 2014, faced accusations of racism days before he ran in the presidential election after saying in a television interview that it was ugly to be called an Armenian.
During a televised interview, he complained that the opposition was carrying out a smear campaign against him by claiming that he had a different ethnic origin.
“They called me a Georgian. Pardon me for saying this, but they said even uglier things: They called me an Armenian!” Erdoğan said.
“As far as I know, from my father and grandfather, I am a Turk,” he added.
In the same year, Erdoğan called out an anti-Israel slur when surrounded by protesters at the scene of the mine blast that killed 301 miners in western Turkey.
In a video circulated by an opposition newspaper, Erdoğan says, “Why are you running away, Israeli spawn,” using a word in Turkish that is considered a curse.
Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment, over alleged insults of President Erdoğan. The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of Erdoğan or his government as an insult.
Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.