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Leading Turkish opposition politician sentenced to nearly 10 years for tweets

Court finds the CHP's Canan Kaftancioglu guilty of spreading terrorist propaganda, insulting the president and degrading the republic over years-old tweets
Surrounded by supporters, Republican People's Party Istanbul provincial chair Canan Kaftancioglu (C) leaves the Caglayan court house in Istanbul (AFP)
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A Turkish court on Friday sentenced a leading opposition politician from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) to nearly 10 years in prison for a series of tweets that she posted as far back as seven years ago.

The court found Canan Kaftancioglu, the chairman of CHP’s Istanbul branch who was credited for the party's victory in the city in the recent local elections, guilty on five charges, including spreading terrorist propaganda, insulting the president and openly degrading the Turkish Republic.

She was sentenced to nine years, eight months and 20 days in prison.

The Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court didn’t immediately issue an arrest order, and Kaftancioglu was free to go following the verdict.

A CHP official told journalists that they would appeal the sentence at the provincial court of appeal. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, a Kaftancioglu ally, was ready at the court to support his colleague against the charges.

During the hearing on Friday, Kaftancioglu rejected the charge that she had insulted President Tayyip Erdogan. “My statements were mere criticisms of a political party’s leader, however they are interpreted as insults to the president. They are protected as free speech under the law,” she said.

Erdogan was among the plaintiffs, according to the indictment.

Kaftancioglu reminded the judges that the European Court of Human Rights, which has jurisdiction in Turkey, has ruled in her favour in similar cases in the past. Though she did not stand trial in those cases, they nonetheless set a precedent.

The politician repeatedly said during the trial that she had no remorse about the alleged crimes.

The indictment, which was leaked to pro-government media, quoted Kaftancioglu’s tweets as evidence for the charges.

For example, because of one tweet posted on 19 January 2015, she was accused of openly degrading the Turkish Republic.

However in the tweet, Kaftancioglu was merely repeating what she had heard in a march organised in memory of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated in 2007: “The crowd is walking from Taksim to Agos [newspaper] chanting ‘murderer state will be held accountable’”.

The provincial court of appeal will have to issue a decision in six months, according to CHP officials.