Erdoğan again sues Turkey’s main apposition leader over alleged ‘insult’

Turkey's autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main opposition CHP's leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sued Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for allegedly “insulting the presidential office” in remarks on an alleged phone conversation between Erdoğan and his son, Hürriyet daily news reported on Monday.

Erdoğan’s lawyer, Hüseyin Aydın, filed a complaint against Kılıçdaroğlu on Monday stating that the CHP leader had voiced arguments “used by the FETÖ” by referring to alleged recordings of the phone conversations. “FETÖ or FETO” is a derogatory abbreviation of “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” that Erdoğan and AKP government circles use to refer to the Gülen movement.

The complaint came after the CHP leader on Friday blasted Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over the Interior Ministry’s order to dismiss the CHP’s İstanbul Beşiktaş district mayor Murat Hazinedar. Erdoğan’s lawyer Aydın stated that Kılıçdaroğlu referred to an alleged wiretapped recording of a phone conversation, revealed during purges of AKP officials after the Dec. 17-25, 2013 corruption scandal.

In his complaint, Aydın said the recordings Kılıçdaroğlu referred to were “distorted” and claimed that “a counterfeit conversation was created.” The CHP leader’s reference “should be considered as evidence of cooperation,” between “FETÖ” and Kılıçdaroğlu, he added. The lawyer demanded prosecutors investigate Kılıçdaroğlu for “insulting the president” and requested a public case to be opened.

The move comes after Erdoğan sued the main opposition party leader in November 2017, demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages over “slanderous” comments about him and his family.

The 2013 investigation embroiled a number of senior government members and accused Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab of paying bribes, in a scheme that involved AKP official’s relatives and executives of state lender Halkbank.

Reza Zarrab and eight other people, including Turkey’s former economy minister and three Halkbank executives, have been charged in the US with engaging in transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars for Iran’s government and Iranian entities from 2010 to 2015 in a scheme to evade US sanctions.

Zarrab was the prime suspect in the major corruption investigation in Turkey that became public in December 2013 and implicated the inner circle of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and then-Prime Minister Erdoğan. Zarrab was alleged to have paid Cabinet-level officials and bank officers bribes to facilitate transactions benefiting Iran.

After Erdoğan cast the case as a coup attempt to overthrow his government orchestrated by his political enemies, several prosecutors were removed from the case, police were reassigned and the investigation against Zarrab was dropped in Turkey. Zarrab was arrested in the US last year over evading sanctions on Iran, but after he became the prosecution’s top witness in the trial, former Halkbank deputy general manager Atilla is now the sole man in the dock accused of violating Iran sanctions, bribery and money laundering.

Scores of people in Turkey have been detained or arrested or are under investigation on allegations of insulting President Erdoğan over their social media posts. As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation on suspicion of terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media.

A total of 1,080 people were convicted of insulting Erdoğan in 2016, according to data from Turkey’s Justice Ministry. Data also showed that 4,936 cases were launched against people on charges of insult in 2016.

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