Kılıçdaroğlu vows to abolish presidential insult law if elected  

Main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has vowed to abolish the Article 299 in the Turkish Penal Code that criminalizes “insulting” the President if he is elected in the upcoming presidential elections.

Duvar English

Turkish opposition Nation Alliance’s presidential candidate and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that if he is elected in the May 14 elections, the Article 299 of the Penal Code which criminalizes “insulting” the President will be abolished. 

“In the rulership of the Nation Alliance, we will establish freedom of speech once again; no youth will be detained at the crack of down for tweeting. Our country will get rid of this freaky article,” Kılıçdaroğlu was quoted as saying by Deutsche Welle Turkish on April 3.

The Article 299 has been widely utilized during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s reign. Over 160,000 people have been investigated over the said charge, out of whom approximately 45,000 have stood trial. Of this number, 13,000 have been convicted of the said charge.

Kılıçdaroğlu said that the Article 299 was initially penned for “unbiased” presidents and that Erdoğan currently utilizes the article for any criticism directed towards him, curbing freedom of speech to a great extent.

“The figures (number of people investigated) explicitly show how this Article (299) has turned into a tool of vengeance during Erdoğan reign. The president, who is also the leader of a political party, needs to internalize freedom of speech and expression that is indispensable for democracy in the 21st century, needs to learn to tolerate different voices and different thoughts, and put effort to listen to people who have a different opinion instead of silencing them,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

The Article 299 reads as follows:

“(1) The person who insults the President shall be punished by imprisonment from 1 year to 4 years.

(2) If the crime is committed publicly, the punishment will be increased by 1/6.

(3) For this crime to be prosecuted, the permission of the Justice Ministry shall be necessary.”

The crime of insulting an ordinary person is punishable by imprisonment from 3 months to 2 years according to Article 125 of the Penal Code, but if the same crime is committed against the President the imprisonment is from 1 year to 4 years.