83-year-old prominent Turkish actor faces 5 years’ imprisonment on Erdoğan insult charges

Photo: Mimesis Dergi

The İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office submitted an indictment requesting between one year, two months and four years, eight months’ imprisonment for prominent Turkish actor Genco Erkal, 83, on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

According to the Turkish media, the investigation was based on a complaint submitted in 2016. The prosecutor claimed that Erkal insulted Erdoğan in three separate tweets. Erkal is expected to stand trial in İstanbul’s 16th Criminal Court of First Instance.

In a tweet on June 7, 2016 Erkal said: “Instead of meddling in the affairs of families and talking about having children or not, show us your diploma. Even if it was signed by a university president who’s your friend or even if it’s fake, let’s see it.”

Erdoğan is accused of not having a bachelor’s degree and submitting a fake university diploma instead to be eligible to run in presidential elections.

In another tweet on November 16, 2016, Erkal said: “The presidential system is not enough. Let’s have an a la Turca system.”

In his third tweet that is mentioned in the indictment Erkal said, “Oh, no! [Erdoğan] decided to destroy the beautiful Ayder plateau, a natural wonder. He transforms everything he touches into concrete.”

“These tweets cannot even be considered ‘heavy criticism’,” Erkal had earlier said in response to the accusations. “This is yet another example of the environment of fear that has been created to muzzle freedom of expression.”

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.

The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of Erdoğan or his government as an insult.

Since Erdoğan assumed the presidential office in 2014, thousands of people have received prison sentences for insulting him — 2,046 in 2018 and 3,831 in 2019 alone. Article 299 of the TCK states that any person who insults the president of the republic faces a prison term of up to four years. This sentence can be increased by a sixth if it has national exposure, and by a third if committed by the press or media. In total 9,554 people have been handed down sentences for insulting the president.

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