Nov 08 2018

Shopkeeper, journalist sentenced to prison for insulting president

In Turkey, protesting against alcohol regulations and calling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a dictator can land you behind bars. 

In the Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya, a shopkeeper was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for reading a poem that was ruled to be insulting to the presidency, Diken newspaper reported. Mustafa Ertem had read the poem as a protest three years ago for being fined 30,000 Turkish liras for selling alcohol past 10 p.m. His prison sentence was announced to be deferred. The alcohol sales after 10 p.m. are prohibited by law in the country.

Ertem said he read the poem not to insult but to criticise.

Additively, journalist Hüsnü Mahalli received a one year and eight-month prison sentence for the same offence, after he allegedly referred to Erdoğan on social media as a dictator, Diken also wrote. 

In his defence, Mahalli said “dictator” is not an insult but a technical term. “In the international community, it’s a term is known to refer to one person collecting power,” he said.

Erdoğan’s attorney said their complaint is warranted. “As written in the indictment, the president’s name and the office was alluded to. … We request the suspect is penalised,” the attorney said. 

Mahalli defended his work as journalism.