Retiree charged with insulting Erdoğan for protesting low pensions

Photo: Turkish Minute

A retiree who wore a T-shirt at a Justice and Development Party (AKP) rally that protested low pensions was detained and subsequently charged on Wednesday with insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Sol Haber news website.

Thousands of people in Turkey are investigated, prosecuted or convicted of insulting the president, which 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 incident took place in Turkey’s western city of Isparta. The retiree, identified only as Y.B., attended the AKP rally wearing a T-shirt that read, “If there’s no justice for pensioners, there’s no vote for you, Chief.”

The message, intended to express retirees’ demands for fair pension increases, led to Y.B.’s detention and subsequent charge of insulting the president. Y.B. protested on behalf of the Retirement Justice Association, founded a year ago to raise awareness about the plight of retirees.

The detention and charges were condemned by opposition figures, including Isparta Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Hikmet Yalım Halıcı, who criticized the government’s intolerance of the word “justice.” “Such incidents would not even happen in dictatorships,” Halıcı was quoted by Turkish media as saying. He emphasized the government’s apparent aversion to the mention of the word “justice” at a rally held by the Justice and Development Party, which has “justice” in its name.

The event is part of a broader context of discontent among pensioners, who have been vocal in criticizing a recent pension increase announced by President Erdoğan. The increase, seen by many as insufficient, raised the lowest pension to 10,000 TL ($311), which is less than 59 percent of the monthly minimum wage.

Critics argue that this adjustment was not enough to solve pensioners’ financial problems, especially given Turkey’s economic challenges, which include high inflation and a significant depreciation of the Turkish lira.

Leading opposition politicians have supported the pensioners’ demands. Özgür Özel, leader of the CHP, called on Erdoğan to convene parliament, currently on recess, to pass a bill for a pension increase. “I call on you: Let’s convenet the parliament next Monday and increase the pension on Tuesday. If you’re sincere, let’s do it. Let’s make these people happy,” Özel said.

Rumors have been circulating about a possible “across-the-board increase” of 5,000 lira ($156) for pensioners, which Erdoğan is expected to announce shortly before the local elections at the end of March.

Meral Akşener, leader of the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party, said if the rumors are to be believed, the government should give an increase of 11,000 lira instead of 5,000, which she considers too low.

The situation sheds light on the general struggles of pensioners in Turkey, who have demanded better living conditions amid the country’s economic downturn. With elections looming, the treatment of pensioners and the government’s response to their complaints remain a major point of contention in Turkish politics.

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