Turkish court sentences famous fashion designer to prison for ‘insulting the government’

Turkish fashion designer Barbaros Şansal.

A Turkish court on Tuesday sentenced fashion designer and activist Barbaros Şansal to three months, 22 days in prison for insulting the government, the Bianet news website reported.

In a video posted by Şansal on Twitter in 2017, he called the government “filth” and said people who advocate for equality and freedom would prevail one way or another. He said people supporting a secular and democratic regime would make a point of this to the current government. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan filed a complaint against Şansal, saying the statement insulted him.

Şansal said his statement was a criticism of the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) decision in August 2017 to dismiss the cases of teacher Semih Özakça and academic Nuriye Gülmen, who were fired by a government decree.

They were both arrested in May 2017 for alleged links to the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), a militant Marxist group. DHKP-C is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Özakça and Gülmen had been on a hunger strike protesting their dismissals since before their arrest and appealed to the ECtHR requesting to be released from prison, saying their health problems caused by the strike did not make them fit to remain in prison.

Regardless of his defense, the İstanbul 52nd Criminal Court of General Jurisdiction ruled that Şansal had publicly insulted and humiliated the government.

Şansal was tried in absentia and not in court on Tuesday, although Erdoğan’s lawyers were in attendance.

This is the second time Şansal has been penalized for the same reason. In December 2016 he posted another video on Twitter criticizing increasing child abuse, corruption and censorship in Turkey. He was attacked by a group of passengers at an airport in İstanbul upon his return to Turkey. He was subsequently detained and then arrested. He was kept in pre-trial detention in the notorious Silivri Prison in İstanbul for two months and faced harassment due to his sexual identity during the initial days of his imprisonment, according to his own account.

Şansal left Turkey and settled in northern Cyprus after retiring from Turkish fashion design in October 2020. In an interview with Turkish Minute in June, the designer said he left Turkey because he felt his life and property were not safe in the country.

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