President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu with legal action last week after revelations about his family members’ offshore money movements and companies.
On Wednesday, Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation against CHP leader on the ground that “he insulted the president.”
A weeklong political tug of war over the Erdogan family’s corruption culminated in a probe by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s office after a complaint filed by President’s chief lawyer Huseyin Aydin.
The accusations are punishable by up to four years in prison.
In the complaint shared by Mr. Aydin on Twitter, the lawyer quoted extracts from a speech by Mr. Kilicdaroglu in which he said President Erdogan had not left Turkey “in peace.”
“If you are searching for a traitor to the people, that person at the top is sitting in the palace,” Mr. Kilicdaroglu said in the speech in Ankara.
The CHP chief accused President Erdogan of “ignoring corruption” and said he would be brought to account for his mistakes, remarks which were also quoted by lawyer Aydin in his complaint.
He said that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) had in April 2013 warned Mr. Erdogan that Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab was breaking U.S. law and this could damage Turkey.
Mr. Zarrab, once close to the government and the Turkish president, is now testifying as a “star witness” in a potentially explosive New York trial against a Turkish banker. The gold trader implicated the president in a scheme to subvert US sanctions against Iran.
Thousands Face Prosecution
The complaint against Mr. Kilicdaroglu comes after President Erdogan last month sued him over claims that members of the president’s family, including his brother, transferred around $15 million to Bellway Limited, based in the low-tax British Crown Dependency of the Isle of Man.
Waving documents in Parliament, CHP leader said he had evidence of alleged transfers made by five individuals including Mr. Erdogan’s son, Ahmet Burak Erdogan, between 2011 and 2012 to the company.
But the president was quick to denounce the allegations as “lies” and has repeatedly railed against the CHP as no longer the main opposition but “the party of treason.”
The same prosecutor launched a probe into Mr. Kilicdaroglu for insulting Erdogan after he called him a “fascist dictator” in October.
A similar investigation came about in 2016 against the CHP leader after he repeatedly called Mr. Erdogan a “tinpot dictator.”
Thousands of Turks have been prosecuted in recent years for allegedly insulting the president but most of the complaints have not seen people jailed.
The CHP has repeatedly denounced an authoritarian drift under Mr. Erdogan, especially since last year’s failed coup and a subsequent purge criticized by Western allies.