Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into an opposition lawmaker on allegations of insulting the Turkish state in a tweet he posted on April 24, Armenian Remembrance Day, local media outlets reported.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy and human rights activist Sezgin Tanrıkulu is facing charges of insulting the Turkish state under the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The investigation is being conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In the tweet that trigged the investigation, Tanrıkulu said: “107 years ago today, on April 24, 1915, hundreds of Armenian intellectuals were detained in İstanbul. They were sent to exile to Çankırı, Ayaş and Ankara and were subjected to enforced disappearance. True justice cannot be achieved without confronting this history, which was the height of evil.”
Turkey categorically rejects the 1915-16 killings of more than a million Armenians as genocide.
The lawmaker’s name was a trending topic among Turkish Twitter users on Sunday, with many pro-government and nationalist figures attacking him and calling for an investigation and his eventual disqualification from serving in parliament due to his remarks, which they said accused Turks of committing genocide.
As many as 1.5 million Armenians are estimated to have been killed from 1915 to 1917 during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which suspected the Christian minority of conspiring with adversary Russia in World War I.
Armenian populations were rounded up and deported into the desert of Syria on death marches in which many were shot, poisoned or fell victim to disease, according to accounts at the time by foreign diplomats.
Turkey, which emerged as a secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, acknowledges that 300,000 Armenians may have died but strongly denies it was genocide.
The prosecution of members of parliament has been possible since the CHP and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) lent support to a 2016 proposal submitted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on removing deputies’ immunity from prosecution.