Turkish court orders opposition leader to pay $74,000 in damages to President Erdoğan

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

An İstanbul court on Wednesday ordered Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to pay TL 359,000 ($74,000) in non-pecuniary damages for suggesting that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his close circle sent money to an offshore company in the Isle of Man in 2011 for the purposes of tax evasion.

Kılıçdaroğlu in November 2017 said Erdoğan’s close circle sent about $15 million to an offshore company called Bellway Limited on the Isle of Man. Erdoğan and other family members filed several lawsuits against Kılıçdaroğlu following the statement.

In June, Kılıçdaroğlu also lost two other lawsuits in cases related to the Turkish president and was ordered to pay TL 339,000 ($70,000) in damages to Erdoğan and his relatives.

The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office in February decided on non-prosecution after the CHP handed over documents the party claimed showed money transactions to an offshore company on the Isle of Man. The prosecutor’s office asked the Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) to investigate the money transactions, which showed only a one-way transfer from the Bellway Co. on the Isle of Man to the accounts of Ziya İlgen, Osman Ketenci and Mustafa Erdoğan.

According to the prosecutor, MASAK’s investigation matched the CHP’s documents, which failed to prove any transactions from Turkey to the Isle of Man.

Meanwhile, President Erdoğan filed another criminal case against CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu and 72 deputies on accusations of insulting him by posting a caricature of him deemed to be offensive on social media.

The caricature, called Tayyipler Âlemi (World of Tayyips), had also led to the arrest of four Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) students who displayed it during graduation ceremonies earlier this month.

Kılıçdaroğlu posted the caricature on Twitter, saying a president should be able to tolerate criticism and humor. “You can’t avoid criticism and humor by jailing people,” Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted.

During the ODTÜ graduation ceremony on July 6 a group of students carried a placard bearing the caricature, which was first published in 2006 by the Penguen political satire magazine. Then-Prime Minister Erdoğan filed a lawsuit against the magazine; however, an Ankara court had dismissed the suit, citing freedom of expression.

Still, three students who held the placard during the ceremony and one who helped them bring it to the venue in her car were arrested by a court last week.

On July 13, Kılıçdaroğlu was ordered by a Turkish court to pay TL 95,000 ($19,500) in non-pecuniary damages for allegedly insulting President Erdoğan.

A Turkish court also ordered CHP deputy chair and party spokesperson Bülent Tezcan to pay non-pecuniary damages in the amount of TL 30,000 ($6,200) for calling Erdoğan a “fascist dictator.” (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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