Journalist Gültekin faces 56-month sentence on charges of insulting Turkey’s Erdoğan

Journalist Levent Gültekin

An indictment drafted by an İstanbul prosecutor seeks a jail sentence of four years, eight months for journalist Levent Gültekin, an outspoken government critic and a columnist for the diken news website, on charges of insulting Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Gültekin is accused of insulting Erdoğan in comments he made on Medyascope, an online TV station, on Dec.12, 2016. The indictment claims Gültekin went beyond the limits of criticism and committed the crime of insult against Erdoğan. If the indictment is accepted by the court, Gültekin will stand trial.

Scores of people in Turkey have been detained or arrested or are under investigation on allegations of insulting Erdoğan. As of the end of 2016, at least 10,000 people were under investigation on suspicion of terrorist propaganda and insulting senior state officials on social media.

Meanwhile, Hasan Akar, a cleric from the Nur religious community, has been arrested on charges of insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, the Diken news website reported on Tuesday. Akar, who was being sought by authorities for more than a month, turned himself in to the police on Tuesday morning.

An arrest warrant was issued for Akar, who made remarks such as the “piç [a derogatory term for an illegitimate child] who died in 1938” for Atatürk and insulted his mother by saying that she was working at a brothel according to the official records in Thessaloniki, Atatürk’s birthplace in Greece, in a social media message. Akar is accused of insulting the memory of Atatürk and inciting the people to hatred and hostility. He will be tried at the Bakırköy 18th Penal Court of First Instance.

Prosecutor Ertuğrul Sarıyar had issued the warrant on May 11, demanding up to 7.5 years of jail time. The Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Akar on charges of “insulting the memory of Atatürk” and “inciting hatred and hostility among the public” due to his comments about Atatürk’s mother. He surrendered himself to the Bakırköy courthouse on June 20.

An indictment had previously been prepared for two historians, Mustafa Armağan and Süleyman Yeşilyurt, over their comments about Atatürk on a TV program. On May 31, the Bakırköy Chief Prosecutor’s Office pressed charges against Armağan, the editor-in-chief of “Derin Tarih” (Deep History) for “insulting the memory of Atatürk” in an article in the May issue of the magazine. The indictment filed against him sought from 1.5 to 4.5 years of jail time.

Armağan denied he had insulted Atatürk’s memory, indicating he had included quotes from books and newspaper interviews in his article series. The May issue in question included an essay on “Latife Hanım,” Atatürk’s wife from 1923 to 1925.

An investigation was also launched into 68-year-old Süleyman Yeşilyurt by the Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, after the historian had claimed in a TV broadcast that one of Atatürk’s foster children, Afet İnan, was actually his illegitimate wife. Yeşilyurt, who was arrested on May 12 for “insulting” Atatürk on the program, was released by the İstanbul court on June 1, state-run Anadolu Agency has reported.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 264 journalists are now in jails as of June 16, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 240 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 105 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with June 20, 2017

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