Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is suing Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders after the anti-Islam politician posted a series of tweets against Erdogan, including one that described him as a “terrorist”, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
Erdogan’s lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Wilders at the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s office for “insulting the president”, a crime in Turkey punishable by up to four years in prison, according to the report.
The lawsuit came after Wilders posted a cartoon depicting Erdogan wearing a bomb-resembling hat on his head, with the comment “terrorist.”
Wilders continued posting tweets targeting Erdogan this week amid a growing quarrel between Turkey and European countries sparked by Erdogan’s sharp comments against French President Emmanuel Macron, including remarks questioning Macron’s mental health over his stance on Islam.
In 2015, Wilders caused a storm in his country after he announced plans to broadcast cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, the founder of Islam, on national television.
Wilders canceled a similar contest two years ago after police arrested a man who had threatened to kill him over his plan.
His stance against Islam has in the past sparked outrage around the Muslim world and prompted death threats that have led to him living under round-the-clock protection.
Erdogan has persistently sued people for alleged insults since he took office as president in 2014, noted AP. Thousands have been convicted. More than 29,000 people were prosecuted on charges of insulting Erdogan last year, according to the Birgun newspaper.
The complaint against Wilders accused him of using language “insulting the honor and dignity of our president and of targeting Erdogan’s personality, dignity and reputation,” the Anadolu news agency reported.
Wilders, who leads the largest opposition party in the Dutch parliament, shrugged off the Turkish criminal complaint and described Erdogan as a “loser.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the move against Wilders unacceptable and said his government would raise the issue with Turkey.
“In the Netherlands, we consider freedom of expression as the highest good. And cartoons are part of that, including cartoons of politicians,” Rutte told reporters in parliament.
He added that a legal case “against a Dutch politician that could possibly even lead to a curtailment of freedom of expression is not acceptable.”
This is not the first time that Erdogan has had a conflict with the Netherlands. Erdogan has gotten in trouble with Western countries in the past. In 2017, Turkey banned the Dutch ambassador to Ankara and suspended high-level political contacts with the Netherlands amid a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.