Union chair arrested on Erdoğan insult charges after remarks on bread consumption

A Turkish court has arrested the head of a bakers union in İstanbul after he implicitly criticized the government over Turks’ excessive bread consumption, Turkish Minute reported, citing the local media.

Baker’s Union President Cihan Kolivar was detained in İstanbul on Tuesday on charges of insulting the Turkish nation, the government and state organs in his remarks during a TV program on Monday where Turks’ excessive bread consumption and a possible rise in bread prices were discussed.

“Bread is the basic food of foolish societies. Since our people satisfy their hunger with bread, we have had [corrupt] politicians in government for 20 years,” Kolivar said during the program on Habertürk TV, claiming that consuming too much bread “stupefies” people and prevents them from making logical decisions.

He said bread consumption is low in developed countries such as Norway, Denmark and Sweden, where bread is not considered an essential food item.

Kolivar’s remarks included criticism of the ruling Justice and Development Party, which has been in power for two decades, and his detention, part of an investigation by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, took place shortly after he was targeted by an AKP politician earlier in the day.

An AKP spokesperson described Kolivar’s remarks as an example of hate speech and said he was acting recklessly with his remarks “insulting our nation and bread.”

Although the union chair was detained on insult charges according to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, his lawyer, Bilge Çiftçi, told reporters in front of the İstanbul Courthouse on Wednesday following his arrest that Kolivar was arrested on charges of insulting the president in his social media posts, which were later added to the investigation file.

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.

Kolivar reportedly said during his police interrogation that it was impossible for him to insult the Turkish nation and that he was trying to tell people that excessive bread consumption is not good for the health.

Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the speech, was classified as “not free” by Freedom House in its “Freedom in the World 2022” index.

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