Turkish minister lashes out at court for not arresting defamation suspect

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu reacted to the release of a man who allegedly insulted his mother over social media, Independent Turkish reported on Thursday.

A Turkish man had sworn at the minister in response to news about his mother being hospitalised last week. He was briefly detained but released on parole to await the hearing.

“What should I do? What good is it to be a minister?” Soylu asked in a tweet. “What good is it when you can’t defend the honour of your mother as you struggle with the affairs of the nation and the state?”

Soylu said he would “consider it a provocation” if the offending man, who had written “F*** your family” at the minister, were to be arrested again after his tweet.

Lawyer Tuba Torun from the main opposition Republican People’s Party told Independent Turkish that arrest over defamation cases is not part of the Turkish judicial system. “Arrest is a strong measure. It is only used in severe crimes or in cases of threat to public safety,” Torun said.

Arrest should be a rare occasion for non-violent crimes, lawyer Yankı Büyüksezer said, and used only in cases where the suspect is at flight risk, could tamper with evidence, or is a threat to witnesses.

The global trend is leaning towards decriminalising defamation, lawyer Mehmet Zengin said. “The criticisms of our esteemed minister is not compatible with how the law works,” Zengin said. “I would suggest he seek damages.”

Speaking to reporters, leader of the centre-right opposition Good Party (İYİP) Meral Akşener said Soylu was “welcome to the club.”

There is rule of law in Turkey, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül said speaking at a meeting. “I speak to those who place orders for arrests or releases every day on social media,” Gül said. “There are laws and rules here. ... Those who don’t like how it works can complain but nobody can wave a finger at the judiciary.”

Deputy Secretary General of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Yasin Bölükbaşı also criticised Soylu in a tweet, saying people would “question your intentions if you try to appeal (on social media) to people who are a phone call away.”