CHP’s Istanbul head could spend 17 years in prison

Old tweets by Canan Kaftancioglu may end up seeing her spending up to 17 years in jail as a Turkish court on Monday accepted an indictment that details various charges against her.

The Istanbul head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has been investigated since January 2018 after notices from seven people were received.

She gave her testimony regarding the case to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on December 12, 2018. Last week, the office finalized the indictment against Kaftancioglu for insulting the Turkish state, the president and public servants, inciting “hatred and enmity”, and “spreading terrorist propaganda”, based mostly on the tweets she posted between 2012 and 2017.

The Istanbul 37th Criminal Court accepted the indictment which seeks a jail term ranging from almost five years to 17 years. The indictment considered one of her tweets as terrorist propaganda as it allegedly quoted a senior member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

Her another social media post was deemed an insult to the state when she referred to the death of a 14-year-old boy, Berkin Elvan, who was hit in the head by a police tear gas cartridge during Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013. The tweet said at the time: “It’s not a state, it’s a serial killer. Farewell, my Berkin.”

The last week’s indictment quotes Kaftancioglu as saying in a statement to the prosecutor’s office her tweets were within the legal bounds of freedom of expression and criticism. She admitted writing all the tweets included in the indictment, except for one which is related to the “Armenian genocide”, a controversial topic in Turkish history.

There are eight litigants, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who brought the case against CHP’s Istanbul head. The first hearing of the case is scheduled to take place on June 28.

“There could be those who can think they would silence me with the stick they show through the law. My only agenda is to work for Istanbul’s 16 million residents without stopping, without giving a break and getting tired,” Kaftancioglu said on May 23 in response to the indictment.

Some analysts deemed Kaftancioglu the architect of the success in the March 31 Istanbul mayoral elections in which CHP’s candidate Ekrem Imamoglu defeated the candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The CHP-won elections were annulled by the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) following AKP’s serial objections, citing irregularities and fraud at the ballots.

A rerun will be held on June 23.

“Insulting the president” is a crime in Turkey

According to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), “insulting the president” is a crime in Turkey which 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, with 66,000 investigations being launched, and 12,305 trials being held.

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