April 8, 2016
The trial of prominent Turkish columnist Cengiz Çandar, accused of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in seven opinion pieces, was opened and immediately adjourned in Istanbul on April 6.
Çandar, a veteran columnist of the recently-closed news website Radikal, faces up to four years in prison on charges of insulting the president in columns published between July 26 and Aug. 19, 2015.
His next appearance in court, where he will be tried for violating controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), has been set for May 31.
During his first appearance, Çandar stated that Erdoğan had applied to court “once every four days and has sued around 2,000 people so far” on “insult” claims, underlining the threat this poses to civil liberties.
As many as 1,845 cases have been opened against people accused of insulting Erdogan since he came to office in 2014.
Ahead of the April 7 trial, Çandar published a column in Radikal announcing his retirement from journalism after 40 years. His column appeared in the online newspaper’s final edition on April 6 before its close.
Meanwhile, a probe has been launched in Germany against a presenter on the ZDF TV station who allegedly “insulted” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in one of his recent programs, state-run Anadolu Agency reported on April 6.
Germany’s Mainz prosecutor’s office opened a probe against presenter Jan Böhmermann for allegedly “insulting foreign state representatives and institutions,” said Mainz chief prosecutor Andrea Keller.
Keller said around 20 people had filed criminal complaints against Böhmermann and that these complaints, along with any future complaints, would be brought together under the probe.
He also said the German Justice Ministry had been informed, in order to clarify whether Turkey or its president had also filed a criminal complaint.
Prosecution spokesman Gerd Deutschler said on April 6 that Böhmermann’s program material could amount to “a violation of section 103 of the [German] criminal code: insulting organs or representatives of foreign states,” according to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert last week said German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu discussed the issue during a recent phone conversation. He said both officials considered the related part of the show as “intentionally insulting.”
Böhmermann’s satirical program was removed from broadcast after he read out a poem allegedly “insulting” Erdoğan.