Kurdish parliamentarian given a year extra jail time for Erdoğan ‘insult’

Sebahat Tuncel, a former People’s Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair and deputy for Istanbul, has been given an additional 11 month and 20 day prison sentence for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Tuncel was already serving a 15 year prison sentence on charges of being a member of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

Tuncel had been arrested in 2016 and sentenced in 2018 to two years and three months in jail based on speeches she had made. However, this sentence was dramatically increased to 15 years in February 2019 after Tuncel joined a hunger strike demanding the end to isolation for jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

One of the remarks Tuncel made in 2016 before her initial arrest and sentencing has now been used by prosecutors to extend her sentence. Tuncel reportedly said that Erdoğan was “an enemy of women and Kurds”.

In 2014 Erdoğan had said that "women are not equal to men", while in 2016 he said "women who reject motherhood are deficient and incomplete". Al-Arabiya also reported that Tuncel had called Erdogan a “complete misogynist”.

Turkey’s penal code punishes insulting the President with up to four years in jail. Tuncel’s lawyer, Cemil Ozen, said that her statements were "criticism of a political rival, which is within the boundaries of freedom of expression”.

Between 2014-2018, around 17,500 people were sued for insulting the president, according to figures from the Turkish Justice Ministry reported in Al-Monitor, who called Erdoğan the ‘world’s most insulted leader’.

Erdoğan’s well-known intolerance to criticism in fact often seems to encourage insults. The British magazine The Spectator ran a poetry competition in 2016 to find the ‘most offensive’ poem about the then Prime Minister.

The competition was won by former Spectator editor and Conservative MP, Boris Johnson, now British Prime Minister.