September 23, 2014

President Erdoğan taken to Constitutional Court over hate speech

Thirty people who say they feel connected to the Hizmet movement, a social movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and hated by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have taken statements from the president targeting this group to the Constitutional Court.

The same group, which earlier petitioned the Ankara Court of 1st Instance, demanding TL 1,000 for emotional damages, took their case to the Constitutional Court on Monday, after the lower courts turned down their petition, saying that none of the 30 applicants have been named by Erdoğan in any of his speeches.

President Erdoğan and many of his ministers and businessmen who are close allies of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government were accused of graft in an investigation that became public on Dec. 17, 2013. Later, the prosecutors conducting the investigation wanted to detain more people in connection with the investigation, but they were stopped by the government from doing so. The investigation has been stonewalled as a result of government efforts to hush it up.

In response to the allegations, Erdoğan accused the Hizmet movement -- which he calls a “parallel state” -- of plotting to overthrow his government. He portrayed the graft allegations as part of the coup plot against him, although he hasn't produced any evidence to support his claims. He has ordered his party's mayors to make life miserable for businesses in their districts that are affiliated with Hizmet, carried out purges in the police force, the judiciary and the state bureaucracy to eliminate people who the government suspects might be supporters of Hizmet and ordered the head of the country's banking watchdog, the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK), to sink Bank Asya, a bank operated by people who don't hide that they have emotional ties to Hizmet.

Adnan Şeker, a lawyer for the 30 applicants, said his clients' rights and freedom of religion and conscience have been violated by Erdoğan's hateful speeches. He said that as earlier judicial remedies tried by the group have not produced results, the group has finally decided to try the Constitutional Court.

Published on Today's Zaman, 23 September 2014, Tuesday