Economist briefly detained for insulting Erdogan 

Istanbul police briefly detained a Turkish economist and author known for his criticism of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

The Demiroren News Agency (DHA) reported that comments on social media by economist Mustafa Sonmez incurred the wrath of the authorities, who dragged him from his home around 3 AM local time on Sunday to a police station in Istanbul.

Later, he was sent to Anadolu Courthouse in Kartal district, where he was released after being questioned by a prosecutor.

After his release late on Sunday, Sonmez tweeted that he has been detained by Turkish police six times in the past for insulting Erdogan and his son Bilal. 

“But what’s the point in sending police officers to my house at 3 am? [People from] the West also call me and ask about this. What’s the purpose of this?” he said.

Sonmez said he was being accused of insulting the president after he shared a video of Besiktas football club fans celebrating in a bar shouting “in your honor Tayyip [Erdogan]” with beers raised.

Besiktas beat Istanbul’s Basaksehir 2-1 on Saturday. Basaksehir is owned by businessmen reputedly close to Erdogan. 

Baris Yarkadas, journalist and former lawmaker of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said that one of the reasons for the detention was a video shared by the economist from the Besiktas Istanbul stadium.

The video shows fans of the football club demanding the recognition of the electoral victory of the opposition in the mayoral election in Istanbul. 

The followers sing “give the mandate to Imamoglu,” referring to CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu, who had won the mayoral election in Istanbul according to the initial results two weeks ago. 

Following his victory, the governing AK Party (AKP) has repeatedly appealed the election results and demanded a re-run in Istanbul. 

Although the ruling AKP had won the local elections on March 31 in general, main opposition CHP took major cities including Turkey’s business center Istanbul and capital Ankara. 

Defeats in the big cities came as a major setback for Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than 16 years.

A number of economists and journalists reacted to Sonmez’s detention on social media, which is widely seen as an attempt to threaten and silence those who talk about Turkey’s shrinking economy. 

“Those who let this country drift into economic crisis without taking any measures expect everyone to be silent about it. I laugh in the faces of those who talk about freedom of thought, democracy, and the law in a country where Mustafa Sonmez is detained at 3.50am in the morning just because he stated his opinion,” Emin Capa, a prominent Turkish economist, said on Twitter.

A veteran journalist and economist Kadri Gursel also tweeted: “What’s more natural than an economist criticizing those who are responsible for the [economic] crisis [in Turkey]?” 

Ugur Gurses, a former banker who is now an economics columnist, posted a tweet right after Sonmez’s detention and said that he should be released immediately because he is not the one who mismanaged Turkey’s economy and paved the way for an economic crisis. 

Thousands of people have been prosecuted on charges of insulting Erdogan since he became president in 2014.

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