Turkish man faces terror charges for quoting Interior Minister Soylu

Erdal Yılmaz, the man behind an anonymous Twitter account, has been subjected to targeted harassment for his critiques of Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, daily Cumhuriyet reported on Friday.

Yılmaz was first charged with insulting a public official over his critical tweets of Soylu and the governor of the central province of Sivas. During the investigation his home was raided by special operations teams, and he was later charged with terrorism.

In his tweets, Yılmaz quoted Erdoğan and Soylu’s old speeches that had been broadcast on Samanyolu TV, a television station that was shut down over its alleged ties with FETÖ, or the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation as Turkey calls the followers of Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based Islamic preacher who is held responsible for the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

The twitter user’s brother, a police officer in the western Izmir province, was reassigned to Ardahan, the easternmost province in Turkey, and later anonymous accounts leaked private information on the Yılmaz family, including home addresses and names of their workplaces.

Yılmaz’s parents are both severely ill, and can’t take care of themselves because his brother was sent away, the man told Cumhuriyet. 

“I only posted criticisms, under the bounds of freedom of expression. What is done to (us) is not humane,” Yılmaz said.

There is still no indictment on Yılmaz, and the man has been issued a house arrest and fitted with a monitoring bracelet, his lawyers told the newspaper.

In the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt, Turkey launched a widespread purge that has seen more than 40,000 people detained or arrested, more than 100,000 members of the civil servant, military, police and judiciary dismissed from their posts, some 21,000 teachers suspended or fired, and 95 media outlets shut down by emergency decrees since. 

Turkey also recently passed new laws that further restrict free expression on traditional and social media, introducing severe penalties for service providers.