Opposition party to pay damages for equating Erdoğan’s son-in-law with thief, court says

A Turkish appeals court has announced its reasoned decision to uphold a local court’s ruling last week ordering the main opposition party to pay damages to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and former minister of finance, Berat Albayrak, on the grounds that Albayrak’s personal rights were violated when he was compared to a thief in a video, Turkish Minute reported.

The 29th Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul Anadolu had ordered the Republican People’s Party (CHP) to pay the former minister TL 40,000 ($2,331) in damages in March this year.

The CHP appealed the decision, but it was rejected last week by the Istanbul Regional Court of Appeal, which said in its reasoned decision that the party attacked Albayrak’s personal honor and reputation, under whose watch the country’s foreign exchange reserves fell sharply, comparing him to a thief in a video over $128 billion sold from central bank reserves in 2019-20.

Posted on the CHP’s social media account on February 19, 2021, the video, titled “Central bank $128 billion is missing, the son-in-law responsible for it is on the run”, shows the figure of a thief getting escaping with a bag with a dollar sign in his hands, after which the phrase “The son-in-law is on the run” appears.

The same sentence is shown again in the video after a male figure in a suit was seen leaving a bank vault with a bag, according to Turkish media, which added that the court failed to reach to any conclusion as to what had happened to the $128 billion. in central bank reserves, a question frequently raised by the CHP at the time.

Although Erdoğan and his monetary policy makers tried to downplay the problem, the public, pundits and opposition parties, especially the CHP, had called Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party government ( AKP) to explain what had happened to the central bank’s $128 billion. in foreign exchange reserves.

The CHP shot “Where’s the $128 billion?” into a political slogan after the central bank used huge sums to try to prop up the lira when it fell to historic lows against the dollar and the euro over the past three years.

The unorthodox politics began around the 2019 municipal elections and intensified in 2020, when the pandemic exposed the lira’s vulnerability and Turkey’s reliance on external funding.

Albayrak has often been blamed for the deterioration of the Turkish economy when a fall in the value of the Turkish lira, by almost 30% in 2020 under his ministry, led to higher inflation via imports denominated in foreign currencies. strong.

The CHP first posed the question “Where is the $128 billion?” on sales in February 2021, prompting Erdoğan to defend the legacy of his son-in-law, who had overseen the policy, saying a significant portion of foreign exchange reserves were used to allow the country to weather the pandemic with minimal damage.

“They’re hanging on to where the money is. The money is in the public treasury and the central bank. Nothing was lost,” Erdoğan also said on March 10, 2021, in reference to opposition politicians.

However, Erdoğan’s words did not reflect the truth, according to media at the time, as the central bank’s net foreign exchange reserves were at their lowest level since 2003 of $10.68 billion as of April 2, according to bank data, and its outstanding swaps stood at $41.116 billion, which meant reserves were in deep negative territory once swaps were deducted.

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