Mon. May 23rd, 2022

Tens of thousands have been charged and sentenced for the crime of insulting Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the seven years since he became president.

A Turkish court has ruled that prominent journalist Sedef Kabas has been sentenced to life in prison on a charge of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan under a law that has prosecuted tens of thousands.

Police detained Kabas early Saturday morning and took her to Istanbul’s main police station before transferring her to the city’s main court, which ruled in favor of her formal arrest.

The alleged insult was in the form of a palace-related proverb that Kabas uttered on both an opposition television channel and on her Twitter account and drew condemnation from government officials.

“When the ox climbs to the palace, he does not become a king, but the palace becomes a barn,” she tweeted.

Fahrettin Altun, head of Turkey’s communications department, denounced the statement.

“The honor of the presidency’s office is the honor of our country … I condemn the vulgar insults made against our president and his office,” Altun tweeted.

Abdulhamit Gul, Turkey’s justice minister, also said on Twitter that Kabas would “get what she deserves” for her “illegal” words.

‘Unacceptable’ arrest

Kabas was sent to Istanbul’s Bakirkoy prison, her lawyer Ugur Poyraz said, adding that he would appeal against the “illegal” decision on Monday. “We hope that Turkey will soon be able to return to the rule of law,” Poyraz added.

Merdan Yanardag, editor-in-chief of the Tele 1 channel on which Kabas made the remarks, sharply criticized her arrest.

“Her detention overnight at 2am due to a proverb is unacceptable,” he wrote on social media. “This position is an attempt to intimidate journalists, the media and society.”

The law insulting the president carries a prison sentence of between one and four years.

Turkey’s media watchdog RTUK has launched a separate investigation into Tele 1 for “unacceptable statements targeting our president”, its chairman, Ebubekir Sahin, tweeted late Friday.

Erdogan insulted

Last October, Europe’s highest human rights court called on Turkey to change the law after ruling that a man’s detention under the law violates his freedom of expression.

Tens of thousands have been charged and sentenced for the crime of insulting Erdogan in the seven years since he passed from prime minister to president.

In 2020, 31,297 investigations into the charge were launched, 7,790 cases were filed and 3,325 led to convictions, according to data from the Ministry of Justice. Those numbers were slightly lower than the previous year.

Since 2014, the year Erdogan became president, 160,169 investigations have been launched into insulting the president, 35,507 cases have been filed and there have been 12,881 convictions.

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