Istanbul, Sep 4 () - A Turkish prosecutor has launched an investigation into daily Hürriyet columnist Ertuğrul Özkök to probe whether he insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his latest article.
The chief prosecutor’s office in Istanbul’s Küçükçekmece district said in a written statement on Sept. 3 the prosecutor acted in his official capacity when a number of websites described Özkök’s Sept. 3 article as “scandalous remarks and gross insults targeting Erdoğan.”
The column slammed by pro-government media websites was a sweeping criticism of the Middle East following the tragic death of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian Kurdish refugee whose body washed ashore a Turkish beach after he was drown with his family en route Greece, sparking global outcry.
In his article entitled “Feel Ashamed, Big Man” Özkök addressed “the big man who turned the Middle East into the most brutal land in the world ... the so-called Muslim brother who pretends fighting [the dictator] while actually keeping his struggle for hate.”
Although Özkök did not mention any specific name in the article, the prosecutor’s office picked the following phrases as reason for the investigation: “The dictator who thinks his country is the property of his father ...
Release your fingers that are clenched for the Rabia gesture ... Unclench your fist clenched by your black politics and let that hands raise for prayer ... Look, my friend, you are the murderer of that kid.”
Citing related articles of the Turkish Penal Law, the prosecutor’s office also made it clear in the statement that Özkök could be jailed for up to four years and two months. Scores of people have been charged and even arrested, with several being convicted, for insulting Erdoğan, since he was elected president in August 2014.
‘I did not lose control of myself so that I could call the president a murderer’
Özkök responded to allegations Sept. 4 in his article, “I did not lose control of myself so that I could call the president a murderer.” He stressed reading his next sentence, which was not mentioned in the prosecutor’s statement, was enough to understand whom he called a murderer.
“Look, my friend, you are the murderer of that kid. You are [the murderer], you, the relentless, faithless, merciless neighborhood called the Middle East,” the next sentence read.
Stressing that Erdoğan was not mentioned in anywhere in his column, the columnist also said the other remarks addressing different Middle Eastern figures referred to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants and any regional country that “enflamed the war in Syria.”
“I did not lose control of myself so that I could call the president a murderer. I had no such intention. But I feel responsibility to criticize their policies,” Özkök continued.
While noting that Kurdi’s death shook his family, too, Özkök concluded: “The whole world rose up. In other countries, prime ministers have been urged to cut their holidays short to be on duty. But in my country, I became the subject of an investigation for voicing my feelings. But this should be known by everybody: The dead body of this child is too heavy. It is so heavy that none of us can carry [it] in his funeral.”