Criminal investigation for insulting the Turkish President

Academic and lawyer Hanifi Barış was notified by the Prosecutor’s Office, last week, in Bakırköy that an investigation was opened on whether he insulted the Turkish president through his social media posts. He has been summoned to the Prosecutor’s Office to give his statement between 26-28 November 2018 and may be detained following his statement.

There is an ongoing investigation against the human rights defender regarding charges of creating “terrorist propaganda” for the same social media posts. He has also worked on human rights, and has defended the right of his clients to represent themselves in the Kurdish language. He is a member of Academics for Peace, a group which has condemned state violence in southeastern Turkey and signed the 2016 peace petition “We will not be a party to this crime!”.

On 4 July, Hanifi Barış was arrested by the 10th Criminal Peace Judge. During his interrogation at the Prosecutor’s Office, he was accused of creating “terrorist propaganda” and questioned about his social media posts, which consisted of shared news articles and commentaries from international and local media sources. The human rights defender had not commented on the contents of the links.

On 23 July 2018, Istanbul’s 29th High Criminal Court accepted the indictment against Hanifi Barış on the same charges and confirmed his detention. He was released on 18 September 2018 after being held in pre-trial detention for over two months. Front Line Defenders expresses its concern regarding the criminal investigation against Hanifi Barış and believes it is a result of exercising his fundamental right to freedom of expression on social media in the defence of human rights.

Baris, who previously practiced law for several years in Turkey and specializes in political theory, uploaded a number of articles denouncing President Erdogan toward the end of June when the Turkish leader secured victory in a national election. According to Scotland-based The Press and Journal, Baris was then arrested by police in Istanbul in July for “posting items with criminal content on Facebook and Twitter accounts.”

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