Erdoğan’s son-in-law sues over tweet questioning drones’ capabilities after earthquakes

Selçuk Bayraktar, the chief technical officer of Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) producer Baykar who is also the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has filed a lawsuit over a tweet criticizing the drones’ inability to function following two powerful earthquakes in February, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Diken news website.

The earthquakes flattened thousands of buildings in Turkey’s south and southeast on Feb. 6, claiming more than 50,000 lives.

Bayraktar sued Aydın Aydoğan demanding TL 150,000 ($7,744) in damages for a tweet he posted on Feb. 17 that said Baykar drones couldn’t be used to transmit images from the disaster area following the quakes because they were unable to fly due to wing problems and some being frozen.

“The TSK [Turkish Armed Forces] flew their own Anka [UAVs] and restored communication services that were disrupted for three days. When [the state-run Anadolu news agency] reported the news, he had the report withdrawn and went to the [quake] zone, acting like they were his drones,” Aydoğan added in the tweet, referring to Bayraktar.

Aydoğan also shared several news articles, including one from Anadolu, covering claims that the drones used in the disaster area weren’t local but produced by an Israeli company.

Aydoğan’s tweet came after Yunus Sezer, chairman of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), who was at the center of criticism regarding delays in response in the earthquake zone, said in an interview with the Hürriyet daily on Feb. 10 that they weren’t able to capture images of the area because UAVs and unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) were unable to fly.

In the 120-page petition that was accepted by the İstanbul 30th Civil Court of First Instance, Bayraktar claimed the tweet violated his personal rights and that he has been subjected to defamation, resulting in damage to his honor, dignity, and respect.

Nearly 100 pages of the petition included national and international news pieces “praising” Baykar’s UAVs and UCAVs, according to Diken.

Speaking to Diken about the lawsuit, Aydoğan said he had exercised his right to criticize in the tweet.

“Not only did I criticize, but I also shared news related to the allegations [about the drones used in the quake zone] and what the AFAD chairman said. Instead of suing me, [Bayraktar] should have sued the head of AFAD,” he added.

Aydoğan further said it was “incomprehensible” that Bayraktar has no tolerance for even the slightest criticism when tens of thousands of people died, thousands were injured and millions were displaced due to the earthquakes.

“This intolerance is evidence that the anger towards the Gezi events is still alive,” Aydoğan said.

Aydoğan was injured by a gas canister during the Gezi Park protests in 2013 and is now partially disabled.

The protests in 2013 erupted over government plans to demolish Gezi Park in the Taksim neighborhood of İstanbul. They quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the government, leading to the death of 11 protestors due to the use of disproportionate force by the police.

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