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Dec 31 2018

Turkey investigates HSBC director general for insulting president

A Turkish prosecutor started an investigation against HSBC bank director general over the charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, secular newspaper Cumhuriyet reported on Monday. 

The probe against Süleyman Selim Kervancı, the director general of HSBC, focuses on a tweet that he posted five years ago when Erdoğan was the prime minister of the country. Kervancı posted video footage from the movie "Downfall" which tells of the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's final days. In the footage, titled "Farewell kiss of Hitler: He complains of spreading the Gezi Park protests", the subtitles were changed as the dictator angers about the police could not manage to suppress the widespread Gezi Park protests in 2013. 

The attorney general of Istanbul has been conducting the investigation against Kervancı. The director general of HSBC on Sep.13 was summoned to the police headquarters in Istanbul and testified on the probe.

Kervancı said the video was first posted by journalist Ayşe Arman and he retweeted it to watch later since Arman was a prominent journalist in the country and he was not aware of what the video was about. 

"If there is an insult to our president or other public servants in the video, I posted it unconsciously. The (anonymous) complainant filed this criminal case against me to damage me and my professional reputation," Kervancı commented on the incident. 

In Turkey, insulting president carries a sentence between one and four years, according to the Turkish Penal Code. 

The Turkish government has been using social media posts, cartoons, news and articles as evidence for insulting the president and thousands of people have been facing prison sentences. 

Between 2010 and 2017, 12,893 cases of insulting the president were filed. Of these, 12,305 were filed under the presidency of Erdoğan, who assumed office in 2014.

The courts have convicted defendants in 2,099 of a total of 5,150 cases. There were an additional 660 cases in which a verdict was reached, but the court adjourned before announcing the decision. 873 cases resulted in acquittal.