Turkey opposition chief fined for 'insulting Erdogan'

AFP , Thursday 9 Apr 2015

File Photo: Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) head Kemal Kilicdaroglu speaks during an interview with Reuters in Ankara April 4, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

An Ankara court Thursday ordered the leader of Turkey's largest opposition party to pay damages after ruling that he insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a speech in 2013, reports said.

The 10,000 lira ($3,820) fine handed to Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), comes amid growing concern over the multiplying number of cases over alleged insults against the president.

Erdogan had brought the case against Kilicdaroglu on the grounds that the opposition politician insulted him with statements that were vulgar, hurtful and contained criminal insinuations during a speech to the CHP parliamentary group in January 2013.

The president's lawyer Muammer Cemaloglu argued that the speech had violated Erdogan's rights.

Kilicdaroglu's lawyer, Celal Celik, countered that the speech contained concrete facts that were in the public interest.

Erdogan's lawyers had asked for a fine of 100,000 lira ($38,200) in the civil case.

Kilicdaroglu, who has repeatedly accused Erdogan and his inner circle of corruption, will be seeking to rattle the president with a strong performance in June 7 legislative elections.

The CHP sees itself as the champion of secular Turks and the ideas of the country's modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and accuses Erdogan of imposing an Islamisation on Turkey.

There has been growing concern over the number of cases coming before the courts over purported insults against Erdogan, who became president in 2014 after over a decade as premier.

Students, journalists and even a former Miss Turkey beauty queen are currently facing legal proceedings for insulting Erdogan on social media.

However Erdogan said in comments published Wednesday that he had every right to take people to court if they insult him, drawing a distinction between insults and criticism.

"Turkey is a state of law. In this democratic state of law do I also have my rights? I do," Erdogan told reporters aboard this presidential plane on a trip back from Iran.

He said he had a right to take legal action like any other Turkish citizen.

"I put myself in the place of a normal person and say to my lawyer friends 'this is not criticism, once it gets to the point of being an insult do what is required by the law'," Erdogan added.

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