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Free speech permits ‘insults' about Turkish president, says Switzerland

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP
10:11 CET+01:00
The Swiss justice office has refused four requests by Turkey for judicial cooperation over comments posted on social media platforms about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he deemed offensive.
Writing in January, the Tages Anzeiger said Turkey had lodged half a dozen requests for legal aid, demanding that Switzerland pursue critics who had ‘insulted’ Erdogan.
On Thursday a spokesman from the Swiss justice office, Folco Galli, told broadcaster SRF that four requests lodged by Turkey in mid January had been rejected, citing free speech. 
Switzerland would only be obliged to cooperate if the act concerned was considered a crime in both Turkey and Switzerland, he said. 
Speaking to the SRF Galli said: “If similar criticisms had been expressed in Switzerland against a federal councillor in the course of a political debate, they would of course have been tolerated as an expression of free speech.” 
According to the Tages Anzeiger, in Turkey criminal proceedings are being pursued against some 2,000 people for supposedly insulting Erdogan through words or cartoons on social media since the failed military coup last summer. 
Earlier this week the Swiss tabloid Blick became the target of Turkish complaints after it published an article calling for Turks in Switzerland to vote against a forthcoming referendum that would give Erdogan more powers.
The Turkish authorities said the article was “offensive” towards Erdogan and called for Blick to “make amends for the lack of respect shown to our president”. 
Blick said its article was praised by many, including politicians and other Swiss media outlets. 

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