Turkish historian was sentenced 15 months in jail on Wednesday for insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and first president of the modern Republic of Turkey.
Historian Süleyman Yeşilyurt, who has been known as staunch supporter of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was accused of insulting one of Atatürk’s adopted children, Afet İnan, during a debate in a television program at the pro-government TVNet channel.
According to a report by Hürriyet daily news, Bakırköy Chief Prosecutor’s Office in İstanbul had demanded a prison sentence between 2 to 7 years on charges of “inciting people to hatred and hostility” and “defaming Atatürk’s memory.” Yeşilyurt was arrested in May and was later released by the court pending trial. The Bakırköy 35th Criminal Court of First Instance on Wednesday found Yeşilyurt guilty of “defaming Atatürk’s memory.”
In a separate case, another Turkish court gave a 15-month jail sentence on similar charges to historian Mustafa Armağan, editor-in-chief of the periodical Derin Tarih (Deep History). Armağan was convicted of including an article that tarnished the reputation of Atatürk’s wife, Latife Hanım, in the May issue of the periodical.
“This is the state of freedom of expression in Turkey. I was sentenced to a year and 3 months in prison for publishing a letter written by Latife Hanım [wife of Atatürk],” tweeted Armağan in reaction to the ruling.
Armağan, the host of the “Derin Tarih” TV show aired on the pro-government TVNET station, attracted widespread criticism when he claimed in a May 6 broadcast based on the article that Atatürk’s foster child, Afet İnan, was his illegitimate wife.
After the claim sparked outrage on social media, investigations were launched into Armağan as well as commentators Süleyman Yeşilyurt and Yavuz Bahadıroğlu on suspicion of “defamation.”