Jan 26 2018

“Model citizen” informs on stranger in Ankara, has her detained

A citizen in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara had a commuter detained by the police after informing the police that she had “insulted the president” during a conversation with another passenger, the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet reported on Friday.

The commuter, going by her initials M.A. in the report, was travelling on a bus to the Kızılay district in Ankara’s city centre when she caught the attention of another passenger, who followed her off the bus in Kızılay.

This passenger phoned the emergency number of the police to inform them that M.A. had “insulted the president” while discussing the 2013 Gezi Park protests and the 2016 failed coup with another passenger. The police arrived at a shop the informant had followed M.A. to, and took her into detention at police headquarters in central Ankara.

“There was not a scrap of evidence of any crime”, said Murat Emir, a parliamentary deputy for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who travelled to the police station where M.A. was detained. “A person’s words are now enough to have you tried, with a possible sentence of four years in prison.”

Under article 299 of the Turkish penal code, a person who insults the president is liable to face a prison term of up to four years, with additional time added if the offense is committed in public or by the media. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has enforced this law enthusiastically, with numerous Turks accused of this crime, ranging from high-school students to the basketball player Enes Kanter.

The readiness of the police to immediately start investigating M.A. on the basis of a phone call was also a problem, said Emir. “While our country is going through such a critical period, they are rushing to investigate whether or not somebody has insulted the president.”