Veteran Turkish comedians Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen to stand trial for allegedly insulting President Erdoğan

Veteran Turkish actors Metin Akpınar (77) and Müjdat Gezen (75) have been charged with the crime of insulting the president in comments made on a television show in December 2018 and will be tried at the İstanbul Anadolu 8th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Akpınar and Gezen face between one year, two months and four years, eight months’ imprisonment if found guilty.

Speaking on the “Halk Arenası” (Public Arena) news show, Akpınar had said: “The only solution to ridding ourselves of this polarization is democracy. If we can reach that point, then we can get out of the situation we are in without fighting and chaos. And if we can’t, then maybe they’ll hang the leader by his foot, maybe he’ll die in a cellar after being poisoned, or [he] may experience the horrible ends that other leaders have experienced.”

On the same program Gezen had said: “He [Erdoğan] tells the people ‘Know your place.’ Look, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, you cannot test our patriotism. Know your place.”

Taking the comments personally, President Erdoğan had targeted both actors in a speech and argued that their purpose was to send him to execution. “They will pay the price in the judiciary,” Erdoğan said, claiming that the actors had threatened to hang the president of the country. A few hours after Erdoğan’s remarks, the two actors were summoned to the office of the prosecutor to defend themselves.

According to human rights lawyer Kerem Altıparmak, more than 100,000 Turkish citizens have been investigated for insulting President Erdoğan and in excess of 30,000 court cases were opened. Altıparmak says Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code on insulting the Turkish president runs against the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a party, and should be annulled.

During the term in office of Erdoğan’s predecessor, Abdullah Gül, the number of people convicted of insulting the president was 233. As of June 2020, a total of 5,683 people had been convicted of the same crime.

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