Veteran actor appears in court on charges of insulting the Turkish nation

Veteran Turkish actor İlyas Salman, who has been indicted on charges of insulting the Turkish nation on social media and faces up to two years in prison, appeared in court at the first hearing of his trial on Tuesday, Turkish Minute reported, citing the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Salman, 72, said in his defense at an İstanbul court that he did not intend to insult the Turkish nation on social media, as claimed in the indictment, but just expressed criticism of the people who have been voting for the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Salman also said he does not know who filed the criminal complaint against him.

The actor, a supporter of the left wing of politics, is accused in the indictment of insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish Parliament and government and the judiciary in a video he posted on social media on Jan. 25, 2021. The charges are based on Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which criminalizes public denigration of “Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.”

In the video Salman criticizes the policies of the AKP government and the people who vote for the party, which has been in power as a single-party government since 2002.

The actor said he is an outspoken government critic and would continue to be one even if another party comes to power.

The court adjourned the trial to a later date.

Salman told reporters following the hearing that an artist is a critic by nature and criticizes the government no matter which party rules the country.

“I am happy to do my duty,” said the actor, who has starred in dozens of Turkish films in addition to being a director, author, screenwriter and musician.

The infamous Article 301 of the TCK was frequently used in the 2000s to prosecute intellectuals on charges of insulting Turkishness. In the wake of widespread criticism from local and international rights groups and the European Union, the AKP government amended the controversial article in 2008 and made permission from the Justice Ministry a prerequisite for the launch of investigations based on this article.

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