Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has filed a lawsuit against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over a video clip linking him with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that Erdoğan recently acknowledged to have been doctored, local media reported on Wednesday.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Shown by Erdoğan at a huge rally in İstanbul on May 7 and broadcast on live TV, the 14-second clip showed Kılıçdaroğlu trying to rally his supporters to the tune of his campaign song. In the next sequence, members of the PKK echoed that call while clapping their hands to the beat of the song.
The message Erdoğan was trying to convey in one of the latest pieces of disinformation to influence the May 14 elections was that the secular opposition leader had formed an alliance with “terrorists.”
In response to a question asked during a live broadcast on the state-run TRT Haber on Monday, Erdoğan again accused Kılıçdaroğlu of having video shoots with the PKK and said, referring to the 14-second clip, “Fake or not, PKK members supported [the opposition] with videos.”
The president also commented on the fake video during a rally in Sivas on Tuesday, saying it was “the product of the quick wits of our young people who can encapsulate the truth in five seconds.”
During a live broadcast on Habertürk TV later the same day, presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın also referred to the clip as “a short video prepared by a group of quick-witted young individuals.”
Kalın claimed the elements in the video were real, even though the video itself was fake.
The acknowledgment that the video clip was a fake sparked outrage among opposition figures, including Kılıçdaroğlu, İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, CHP İstanbul branch chairperson Canan Kaftancıoğlu and former prime minister and current Future Party (GP) leader Ahmet Davutoğlu. They accused the president of orchestrating a deliberate campaign to discredit his political opponent.
According to Turkish media reports Kılıçdaroğlu’s lawyer, Celal Çelik, on Wednesday announced on Twitter that they had filed TL 1 million ($50,000) lawsuit against Erdoğan due to the fake video he showed as “evidence” of the CHP leader’s links to terrorism.
“We have filed our lawsuit against the master of manipulation, Erdoğan, to hold him accountable for the deception of a doctored video! … We have chosen to … file a lawsuit for 1 million TL, which will be distributed as educational scholarships to the children of our martyrs,” Çelik said.
Genel Başkanımız ve 13. Cumhurbaşkanımız Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu'nun talimatı gereğince;
Türk tarih ve kültürü ile özdeşleşmiş "Mertçe Mücadele" etik değerinden bihaber olan,
Müfteriliği ise değer olarak benimseyip içselleştirmiş bulunan,
Montajcıbaşından yani Erdoğan'dan;
— Celal ÇELİK (@CelikBaskan06) May 24, 2023
CHP Deputy Chairperson Muharrem Erkek also announced on Tuesday in a video on Twitter that they had filed a criminal complaint with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against Erdoğan in addition to those who had prepared and disseminated the fake clip.
Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan ve aynı zamanda bu sahte, montajlı videoyu hazırlayanlar ve yayanlar hakkında da Ankara Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığına suç duyurusunda bulunduk. Sürecin sonuna kadar takipçisi olacağız.
Siyaseti bu montajcılardan kurtaracağız…#KararVer pic.twitter.com/1GSQlK8j6j
— Muharrem Erkek 🇹🇷 (@MuharremErkek17) May 23, 2023
Meanwhile, the İstanbul and Ankara branches of the CHP expressed their dissatisfaction with the video by laying a black wreath at the respective provincial offices of the AKP.
Following the event in İstanbul, the CHP’s Kaftancıoğlu spoke to the press, saying they knew the AKP “wouldn’t play fair” in the election but that the party had “taken their wickedness to an advanced level that would even shame the devil.”
“You portrayed things that didn’t exist through doctored tapes. You have engaged in deceit. Not only did you showcase footage full of deception at rallies, you also broadcast those rallies live through all your partisan channels, reaching millions of viewers,” she added, addressing the ruling AKP.
Kılıçdaroğlu has been criticizing the AKP government’s divisive language and accusing it of attempting to manipulate the elections on May 14.
At a rally in Kayseri on April 29 Kılıçdaroğlu said, “I know the dirty tricks they’ll try in the last 10 days.”
Turkey will hold a presidential runoff on May 28 since initial results showed Erdoğan failing to secure a first-round win against his secular rival, Kılıçdaroğlu.
According to the results of the May 14 presidential election, Erdoğan received 49.5 percent of the vote, while Kılıçdaroğlu garnered 44.8 percent.