Derya Büyükuncu: Former Olympic swimmer wanted for 'insulting' Erdogan over COVID infection

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By Euronews  with AFP
Derya Buyukuncu competed for Turkey at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Derya Buyukuncu competed for Turkey at the London 2012 Olympic Games.   -   Copyright  FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP, FILE

A former Olympic swimmer is wanted in Turkey for "insulting" President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after he recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Turkish courts have issued a total of eight arrest warrants, including for six-time Olympian Derya Büyükuncu.

The Istanbul Prosecutor's Office announced on Monday that the warrants were part of an investigation into "criminal messages on social networks".

Erdoğan had announced on Saturday that he and his wife were suffering from a "mild" form of the coronavirus.

The 67-year-old president stated that he would be working from home and has received well wishes from several world leaders.

But authorities have also investigated several online posts that had mocked Erdoğan's infection. Four people have so far been arrested.

Büyükuncu -- a backstroke and butterfly swimmer -- was found to have posted insulting remarks on social media, prosecutors say.

Turkish authorities have opened more than 160,000 investigations into alleged insults since Erdoğan became president in 2014. More than 3,600 people have been convicted under the controversial law.

"It is our duty to protect the respect of my office, of the presidency," Erdoğan has previously said, "it has nothing to do with freedom of expression."

The Turkish president has also called for measures to be taken against media content that is deemed contrary to the country's "fundamental values".

The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Ankara, stating that a law banning insults against the president violates the freedom of expression.