Court acquits man who likened Erdoğan to Gollum character

A court in the western province of Aydın, on Tuesday, acquitted physician Bilgin Çiftçi, who faced charges of insulting Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by pointing out similarities between Erdoğan and Gollum, a fictional character, in a Facebook post.

Çiftçi shared three facial expressions of Erdoğan and Gollum side by side on his Facebook page on Aug. 23, 2014, after which an investigation was immediately launched. Çiftçi lost his job as a public servant in October 2014.

Gollum is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien’s legendary “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.” The character often reverts between scoundrel and victim, usually talking to himself.

Last September, a group of experts who were asked by the Aydın court to draft a report about the personality of Gollum, said in their report that Gollum does not represent evil and is actually a victimized character. The experts said an examination of the relevant literature and the movies show that Gollum is far from being a symbol of evil and is actually a victim and an oppressed character.

Çiftçi’s trial found extensive coverage in the foreign media, prompting Oscar-winning “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson to issue a statement saying the images posted by Çiftçi were actually of Sméagol, Gollum’s benign alter ego.

Speaking to reporters about the court ruling following his acquittal, Çiftçi said such court decisions are important at a time when there is distrust of the Turkish judiciary. He also said an administrative court where he applied to return to his job as a public servant was awaiting the decision of the Aydın court to make a ruling.

Meanwhile, an indictment prepared by an İstanbul prosecutor seeks a jail term of up to two years for famous Turkish fashion designer Barbaros Şansal on charges of “insulting Turkish nation” with a video he posted on social media on the New Year’s Eve. The sentence was sought in line with Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which makes it illegal to denigrate Turkey, the Turkish nation or Turkish government institutions.

The code initially came into force on June 1, 2005, and made it a crime to “insult Turkishness.” On April 30, 2008, the code was amended to change “Turkishness” into “the Turkish nation.” Since 2005, charges have been brought in more than 65 cases, some of which are high profile.

January upon his return from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), Şansal was beaten up by a group of people who gathered at an Istanbul Airport tarmac in protest of his controversial video, which he shared on Dec. 31 to criticize Turkish people’s attending New Year’s Eve celebrations despite several problems in Turkey including mass detentions, corruption, rape, bribery and bigotry.

“I won’t celebrate. Do you know what I am going to do? I will drink up all drinks at bar and home,” Şansal said in the video before adding:” Drown in your shit, Turkey!”

A day after he was detained at the airport, Şansal was arrested by an İstanbul court and sent to Silivri Prison. On March 1, İstanbul 5th Criminal Court decided to release him pending trial. (SCF with & April 18, 2017

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