The head of the unit of HSBC that is based in Turkey is under investigation for allegedly insulting Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey. The probe is considered the most recent move in the efforts of the Turkish government to restrict dissent among its people.
A prosecutor is investigating the chief executive of HSBC Turkey, Selim Kervanci, for a 2013 retweet of a clip from Downfall, a German film that is set in the last days of Adolf Hitler.
The HSBC chief retweeted a tweet that was posted by a Turkish journalist five years ago when President Erdogan was still the prime minister of Turkey and when there was a series of protests over the conservation of Gezi Park in Istanbul which eventually transformed into a wider protest against the state.
Last September, Kervanci testified to the police regarding the said video. The story was initially reported by Cumhuriyet, a Turkish newspaper.
HSBC Turkey did not accommodate requests for comment regarding the matter.
Kervanci joined HSBC 22 years ago. He was just a management trainee when it was still called as the Midland Bank in Turkey. He became the chief executive of the Turkish arm of the company in 2016.
After a failed military coup in July 2016, the government of Turkey enforced a state of emergency. It also ramped up its crackdown on dissent, arresting academics, activists, and journalists as well as dismissing thousands of officials from the public sector.
Insulting President Erdogan is considered a crime in Turkey and according to Human Rights Watch more than 6,000 people were prosecuted last year and more than 2,000 people were convicted.
A 2017 referendum granted President Erdogan the expansive new powers for various amendments to the constitution. The said move is considered as a step to transform Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic.