Main opposition party mayor gets suspended sentence on Erdoğan insult charges

Halil Arda, mayor of the Gaziemir district of western İzmir province, was handed down a one-year suspended sentence for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on social media, local news outlets reported.

The İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation in 2020 and charged Arda with “insulting the president,” “publicly inciting hatred and enmity,” “insulting a segment of the public” and “publicly insulting religious values.”

His trial took place at the at the 34th Criminal Court of First Instance in İzmir.

Arda said the social media account in question did not belong to him and that the trial was politically motivated.

According to the local reports, the court asked Facebook for the identity of the owner of the account but the company was unable to provide the information.

Erdoğan’s lawyer, Gülşen Gezici, claimed during the trial that the evidence proved the defendant had committed the crime.

The court handed down a one-year suspended sentence to Arda on conviction of “insulting the president” and deprivation of his right to vote and stand for election should he ultimately serve the sentence.

Under Turkish law, if the recipient of a suspended sentence is convicted of the same crime within five years, he or she shall serve both sentences.

Arda was elected mayor of Gaziemir from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 2019.

Thousands of people in Turkey are also under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment over alleged insults of President Erdoğan.

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.

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 the president or his government as an insult.

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