Driver accused of insulting president after covering bus floor with newspaper displaying Erdogan’s picture

A Turkish bus driver has been detained over allegations of insulting the president when he used newspapers featuring the pictures of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cover the bus stairs, Cumhuriyet daily reported.

Acting on the complaint of a passenger traveling from Ankara to the southern province of Burdur on 24th February, the police detained then released the accused after taking his statement later that day.

This incident is the latest episode of the “insulting the president” frenzy in Turkey, where the slightest criticism can be considered an insult to Erdogan.

According to the figures shared by a prominent law professor Yaman Akdeniz from Istanbul Bilgi University, between 2010 and 2017, nearly 96 percent of all insult cases, 12,893, were filed; and over 3,000 people were convicted under Erdoğan’s presidency that began in 2014.

Some well-known figures accused of insulting the president include Kemal Kılıçdaroglu – leader of the main opposition party, Meral Aksener – leader of the opposition Good Party (IYI), Selim Kervanci – Chief Executive Officer of HSBC’s Turkish unit, and journalists Fatih Portakal and Husnu Mahali, singers Zuhal Olcay and Suavi, veteran actors Mujdat Gezen and Metin Akpinar, cartoonist Nuri Kurtcebe, as well as many academics, undergraduate students, foreign nationals and even a beggar.

According to the controversial Article 299 Turkish Penal Code (TCK), insulting the president is a serious crime, punishable with between one to four years in prison. The sentence can even be increased if the insult was committed through the media.

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