The CEO of HSBC Holding’s Turkish unit is to stand trial over allegations that he insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the “Gezi” anti-government protests six years ago, Bloomberg reported on February 7 citing documents that have passed before it and the office of the president’s lawyer.
An Istanbul court accepted an indictment by prosecutor Tuncay Karcioglu on January 24, the documents reportedly show, with the first hearing to be held on April 11, according to the office of Ahmet Ozel, a lawyer for Erdogan listed in the indictment.
Insulting Erdogan or other public officials is a crime in Turkey. The country was again deemed “Not Free” by the latest Freedom in the World survey, released on February 4 by US-based watchdog Freedom House. Turkey lost its "Partly Free" status in the 2018 edition of the ranking. Its freedom ratings fell during the two-year-long state of emergency imposed after the July 2016 coup attempt.
HSBC’s Selim Kervanci, 49, was being investigated by the prosecutor’s office over a video he retweeted during the 2013 Gezi protests. The clip was from the 2004 German movie “Downfall,” set during Adolf Hitler’s last days and depicting the collapse of Nazi Germany. The indictment seen by Bloomberg alleges the video that Kervanci shared on social media offended Erdogan by drawing parallels with Hitler.
With local elections approaching in March—and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in danger of losing support amid the currency-crisis-induced economic strife Turkey is currently enduring—the populist president has lately returned to attacking those he accuses of organising the Gezi rallies. Erdogan often refers to the demonstrations as a precursor to the failed attempt at toppling him.
The Gezi protests went nationwide after growing out of a small sit-in conducted in protest at the planned redevelopment of Gezi Park in central Istanbul. Restrictions against free speech and the freedom to publicly criticise the president in Turkey were tightened after the demonstrations and were tightened even further after the failed coup attempt.
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