Boss of HSBC’s Turkey unit investigated for allegedly insulting president

The head of HSBC’s unit in Turkey is being investigated for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the latest move in the government’s attempt to curb dissent.

A prosecutor is investigating Selim Kervanci, chief executive of HSBC Turkey, for a 2013 retweet of a clip from the German film Downfall, which is set in the last days of Adolf Hitler.

He retweeted the post by a Turkish journalist five years ago when Mr Erdogan was prime minister of Turkey and when there was a series of demonstrations over the conservation of Gezi Park in Istanbul which transformed into a wider protest against the state.

Mr Kervanci testified to police about the video in September. The story was first reported by Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet.

HSBC Turkey declined to comment on the probe.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Kervanci joined HSBC 22 years ago as a management trainee when it was called Midland Bank in Turkey and he became chief executive of the Turkish arm in 2016.

Following a failed military coup in July 2016, the government enforced a state of emergency and ramped up its crackdown on dissent, arresting journalists, academics and activists as well as dismissing thousands of public sector officials.

Insulting Mr Erdogan is a crime in Turkey and according to Human Rights Watch more than 6,000 people were prosecuted in 2017 and just over 2,000 people were convicted.

A 2017 referendum granted Mr Erdogan expansive new powers for several amendments to the constitution, a step to transform Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic.

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