Police briefly detain Turkish actor after tweet critical of former Erdoğan aide

Barış Atay

Turkish police detained actor Barış Atay on Wednesday morning after Hürriyet daily columnist Ahmet Hakan wrote an article and targeted him, saying, “Teach him a lesson,” following a tweet posted by Atay about an apology by a former aide of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for kicking a man protesting Turkey’s worst mining disaster.

Atay’s lawyer, Efkan Bolaç, announced that he had been taken to a police station after his detention. Police did not search his house or phone, and no electronic devices were seized by the police. Atay was released late Wednesday.

Bolaç said the police told Atay that there was a detention warrant issued for him due to a tweet he posted. However, neither Atay nor his lawyer was informed of the details of the investigation.

Scores of people have been arrested in Turkey for tweets critical of the president and government under sweeping state of emergency powers put in place in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The former Erdoğan aide, Yusuf Yerkel, became notorious in Turkey after he was photographed kicking a protester following the 2013 Soma mining disaster in which 301 people died. Yerkel never faced any charges, but apologised on Monday, on the fourth anniversary of the accident, after main opposition presidential candidate Muharrem İnce vowed to hold him to account for the attack.

Atay, who has appeared in a number of film and television roles in Turkey, responded to Yerkel’s apology on Twitter: “You are all going to apologise in tears. When that day comes, we are not going to forget the forgiver, the empathizer and those who decided against a trial! … You are going to be held accountable for what you’ve done to this country and its people!”

Pro-Erdoğan columnist Ahmet Hakan responded to the actor in his Tuesday column by  demanding opposition presidential candidates put Atay in his place, calling on İnce and Meral Akşener to “teach this man a lesson.”

Hakan wrote: “This man represents a mindset! He represents anything that we wish to end… He’s taken all this on his back and appeared before us! This man … is a representative of all those who pursue revenge and seek a fight, chaos and unrest!”

According to a report by Bianet, in a message conveyed by his lawyer, Atay said, “Ahmet Hakan’s instruction has arrived at its destination.” Atay had said, “Ahmet Hakan… everyone who this government has used as a hitman against the people under any circumstances will apologize in shame, just like Yusuf Yerkel, yet they will still be tried! You [Ahmet Hakan] are one of them.”

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