Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed libel suit against Ahmet Altan, the editor-in-chief of the Taraf daily, for remarks Altan made about him in one of his recent columns, with the prime minister's lawyers claiming that the journalist violated Erdoğan's personal rights.
Erdoğan's lawyers Muammer Cemaloğlu and Burhanettin Sevencan argued in the petition submitted to the Ankara Prosecutor's Office on Friday that Altan used excessively harsh insults when writing about the prime minister in his Thursday column titled “Alaturkalık” (Being a la Turca]. The lawyers argued that Altan's column did not intend to criticize Erdoğan but to humiliate him by calling the prime minister “arrogant, uninformed and uninterested.” The prime minister's attorneys also said Altan's comments in the column cannot be accepted simply as a writer stating his opinions.
The controversy between Altan's Taraf and Erdoğan erupted on Tuesday when the daily page reported on its front page a recently leaked email from security analysis company Stratfor, which said Erdoğan had terminal cancer and just two years to live. On Wednesday, Erdoğan lashed out at Taraf during a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) meeting, saying: “Only God can determine the length of our life. … Those who believe in rumors and determine the lifespan of others, for us, are not only daring but insolent as well. Those who carry these rumors on their headlines are also very insolent,” he said.
Erdoğan is demanding TL 30,000 in compensation for the allegedly denigrating remarks.
Erdoğan's lawyers filed a lawsuit against the journalist last year as well, arguing that Altan had harshly insulted the prime minister and exceeded the limits of criticism and freedom of expression. In his column published on Jan. 15, 2011 and titled “Erdoğan and hollow bullying,” Altan argued the prime minister was becoming more Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)-like, denying the rights of Kurds, aspiring to demolish a statue in Kars and arguing with whoever warned him to return to his reformist, democratic and progressive identity. The prime minister later withdrew the case.