Journalist Fatih Portakal, on April 6, 2020, tweeted “Will they remind the Tekalif-i Milliye Orders and ask money from those who have assets or savings by saying ‘we are going through difficult times”! Will they say we will pay back after corona! Unfortunately I can’t say never” on his personal account.
The tweet was about the financial measures taken against the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey, by Justice and Development Party (AKP) Government. Government had launched a donation campaign called “Biz Bize Yeteriz Türkiye” as the country was battling with the pandemic. Details of the bank accounts, opened for the campaign, were shared by the members of the government and public was called to action.
President Erdoğan, in his speech had said “Turkish nation is a nation that donated everything it had for its independence after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk signed the Tekalif-i Milliye Orders”. Erdoğan had underlined the “Tekalif-i Milliye Orders” and reminded the financial measures and obligations taken in 1921, during the Independence War. Some of these obligations regulated authorisations such as additional taxes and partial partial seizure of property.
President Erdoğan, on April 7, 2020, following the tweet, filed an official complaint against journalist Fatih Portakal to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Complaint was made by Erdoğan’s attorney Ahmet Özal, on Erdoğan’s behalf. Complaint claimed that the tweet “contained incorrect expressions aiming to manipulate the public”.
Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency(BDDK) filed an official complaint against Portakal too. BDDK in the complaint claimed that the tweet “was in a manner to shake the trust toward banks”. Tweet was claimed to have “aimed to create an environment of panic and manipulate asset owners into believing that their assets were not safe”.
Portakal, in his statement during the investigation stated that he only asked questions that may come to people’s minds after the President mentioned ‘Tekalif-i Milliye’, and that was one of the requirements of his job.
The indictment against Portakal was completed on April 27, 2020. Following allegations were made:
“It is understood that the post aimed to create a perception and opinion that the assets and savings of those who have them in banks, can be requested by the state by using corona as an excuse and can be repaid after corona, and this situation may shake the trust in the banking sector altogether.”
The indictment accused Portakal of violating the article 158/1 of the Banking Law. Said article regulates the sanctions of the who violate article 74 of the same law. According to that Portakal was accused of “intentionally damaging the reputation, prestige or assets of a bank or disseminating inaccurate news”. He was requested to be sentenced to, from one year to three years of imprisonment and from one thousand days to two thousand days of judiciary fine.
The trial started with the first hearing on September 24, 2020 at Istanbul 46 Criminal Court of First Instance. Fatih Portakal was present alongside his attorneys. Portakal stated that he could not completely comprehend why he was being tried and said:
“It is a very simple question, which could be asked by simply anyone without needing to be a journalist, following Mister President’s words. When the President mentioned Tekalif-i Milliye Orders of Independence War times, I simply wondered “if they were going to ask for something”. Any regular citizen without being a journalist can ask this question.
However if Mister President is talking about that, as a journalist and a citizen, I will ask this question. I am a journalist. I am a citizen. I have constitutional rights. I have freedoms of thought and expression.”
Portakal did not accept the announcement of a possible imprisonment sentence to be deferred.
Portakal’s attorney Ece Güner Toprak, too, stated that physical elements of the crime were not formed, and said “A bank’s reputation need to be targeted, which absolutely does not occur. Or baseless news need to be spread, which too is not committed. Physical elements are not present. Specific intentions do not exist. Moral elements are completely missing”.
Prosecutor of the case requested the new indictment, prepared against Portakal for the accusation of “insulting the President” through same tweet, to be accepted.
Court accepted the new indictment, prepared against Portakal for the accusation of “insulting the President” through same tweet. Therefore trial was rule to continue with the consolidation of two indictments.
Second hearing of the case is set to November 5, 2020.
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