Turkish court sentences filmmaker to prison for movie portraying execution of Erdoğan

A Turkish filmmaker was convicted on Friday of alleged membership in the Gülen movement for a feature film that portrayed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan having a gun pointed at his head as his family lay dead all around him, according to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.

Ali Avcı was arrested last year after the release of a trailer for his film “Uyanış” (Awakening), based on a controversial military coup on July 15, 2016. The trailer caused an uproar among pro-Erdoğan circles with sequences showing Erdoğan’s family, including his son-in-law, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, shot dead, and an army officer pointing a gun at the back of the president’s head as he prayed.

An İstanbul court sentenced Avcı to six years, three months in prison over his alleged membership in the Gülen movement. The court said Avcı had been carrying out “public perception management in line with the core goals of the Gülen movement” through his movie.

Avcı denied the charges and said Erdoğan himself had repeatedly said he was the target of the coup attempt, which included airstrikes near the presidential palace in Ankara, although Erdoğan was absent at the time.

“If I was trying to spread terrorist propaganda, I would have shown Erdoğan making plans to flee instead of the praying scene,” Avcı told the court.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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