Main opposition lawmakers face trial over insulting Turkish president

Sixty officials from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) are facing charges of insulting the president over the party's statement on the 2016 failed coup attempt, left-leaning daily Birgün reported on Monday.

Following the failed putsch of July 15, 2016, which Ankara maintains was orchestrated by followers of the Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen, the 60 members of the CHP party council, the party’s highest body, released a statement criticising the ruling party and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over their links to the Gülen movement.

The statement accused Erdoğan and Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of helping the Gülen movement to infiltrate Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

Years before ruling party listed his movement as a terrorist group, Gülen and his followers were praised and supported by top AKP officials during a period when Gülenists in the judiciary and police forces are widely believed to have targeted secularist state officials and military officers in a series of discredited trials.

During the trials, Erdoğan famously declared himself to be the prosecutor to signal his support for the legal action. Courts later overturned the trials, and the president said his party had been tricked by Gülenists.

Responding to the charges against the CHP, party council member and Eskişehir deputy Gaye Usluer said Erdoğan was hiding behind his position as president to undermine his critics.

In Turkey, insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years.

The Turkish government has charged thousands of citizens for insulting Erdoğan in social media posts, cartoons, news reports and other media since he assumed office as president in 2014.