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Turkey investigates 346 social media accounts over comments on economy

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Turkey’s Interior Ministry on Monday said it was taking necessary legal measures on social media posts regarding the dollar exchange rate that create a negative perception of the economy, Reuters reported.

The statement said 346 social media accounts that posted comments about the weakening of the lira “in a provocative way” have been identified since Aug. 7 and that legal action has been launched.

In a similar move on Monday, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office stated that it had launched investigations into people who “threaten economic security” by sharing “manipulative” information about the plunge of the Turkish lira and related stories that constitute “economic attacks” against Turkey on social media.

“An investigation has been launched according to Turkish Penal Law, Banking Law, Capital Markets Board regulations and related laws into people who displayed actions that threaten economic security through manipulative stories on media and operational social media accounts as part of the economic attacks that target the Republic of Turkey, its social peace, unity and economic security by the powers behind the [2016] coup attempt,” the office said in a statement, the Hürriyet Daily News (HDN) reported.

Turkey has been facing a currency crisis since its relations with the US administration were dramatically strained over a court decision to put American pastor Andrew Brunson under house arrest after almost two years in pretrial detention rather than release him as demanded by the US administration.

The Turkish lira which on Friday tumbled as much as 18 percent at one point, its biggest daily drop since 2001, plunged to a new record low in on Monday’s early Asia Pacific trade, as total value loss passes 45 percent this year.

Following the court ruling US President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened to impose “large sanctions” on Turkey if Brunson were not freed.

After imposing economic sanctions on two Turkish ministers on Aug. 1 for their role in the detention of evangelical pastor Brunson, President Trump on Friday ramped up his sanctions on Turkey by doubling US tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports to 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday warned Turkish businessmen not to buy foreign currency.

“Do not rush to banks to buy foreign currency. Do not think this way: It [the Turkish economy] is over, it is bankrupted so we should take steps to protect ourselves. If you resort to this method, you will make a mistake. It is not only our duty to keep this nation alive, but also the duty of merchants and industrialists. Otherwise, I will have to put plans B and C into practice. Better that everybody understands it,” Erdoğan said, speaking to businessmen in Trabzon province.

Erdoğan did not elaborate on the details of plans B and C.

The Turkish government has seized over eight holdings and 1,020 companies since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

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