The number of people accused and convicted of “insulting the president” during the first three-year tenure of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan increased thirteenfold compared to the tenure of the previous president, Abdullah Gul.
“Insulting the president” is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). This crime could result in a four- year prison sentence, and even longer if committed through mass media.
The number of people who have been prosecuted and convicted according to Article 299 has risen rapidly since Erdogan assumed the presidency in 2014.
According to figures released on dogrulukpayi.com that are based on official statistics of the Ministry of Justice’s General Directorate of Judicial Records and Statistics, in Turkey, accusations of insulting the president have increased from 848 (Gul) to 12,173 (Erdogan), and actual convictions increased from 233 (Gul) to 3,221 (Erdogan).
The number of people prosecuted in 2014 was 132. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the number of people prosecuted was 1,953, 4,187 and 6,033 respectively. The number of actual convictions was 40 in 2014, 238 in 2015, 884 in 2016 and 2,099 in 2017.
Convicted for “simply speaking out against the president”
“Turkish courts have convicted thousands of people in the past four years for simply speaking out against the president,” said Benjamin Ward, Europe and Central Asia acting director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) – an independent human rights organization that investigates and reports abuse that occurs all around the world.
For Ward, “insulting the president” should not be a crime, and Erdogan should respect Turkey’s peoples’ rights to peaceful, free expression.