Insulting Mr. Erdoğan Can Be Dangerous
Most of our readers are probably aware by now that the German government finds itself in a rather awkward situation over its relations with Turkey’s government again – with which the EU has just struck a widely criticized and very expensive deal to help it stem the flood of refugees.
One thing is absolutely certain about Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: He has no sense of humor whatsoever. As of early March 2016, 1,845 lawsuits were pending in Turkey for “insulting the president”. To see how extremely ridiculous most of these cases are, consider the one involving the pictures below:
Bilgin Çiftçi was fired from his job at Turkey’s public health service last October and detained after comparing Erdoğan to Gollum. He could face up to two years in prison. His lawyer Hicran Danisman said she was forced to argue in court that “Gollum is not a bad character” because she “got nowhere with a defense case based on freedom of expression”. The trial has now been adjourned to give the court time to “consult with a group of experts on whether Gollum is a good or a bad character”.
Two prominent Turkish journalists are even facing possible life sentences over what appear to be trumped-up treason charges after they reported on Turkey’s shady dealings with ISIS. A great many other journalists have lost their jobs and/ or are at risk of getting jail sentences. Not surprisingly, Turkey currently finds itself on place 149 of 180 on the global press freedom list. In short, it is quite dangerous to criticize or make fun of Mr. Erdoğan. This is a great pity, considering what an extremely inviting target he is.
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