Feb 11 2019

Turkish man sentenced to read books about Erdoğan

A Turkish court sentenced a 75-year-old man to read and summarise books about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after convicting him of insulting the president, opposition news outlet Oda TV reported on Sunday.

75-year-old Ali Şahin said he was investigated for insulting the president due to claims made by another man in a cafe with him in Istanbul's Maltepe district.

"I don't know who this person is. After him, the police came and took me for testimony. I got into trouble due to slander. I didn't insult the president, it's out of the question," Şahin said.

After giving his testimony, Şahin was released on parole and sentenced to read and summarise books about Erdoğan, including biography and two books on the 2016 failed coup. 

The Turkish government has been using social media posts, cartoons, news and articles as evidence for insulting the president and thousands of people have been facing prison sentences.

The “insulting the president” offence relies on article 299 of Turkey’s penal code, a provision rarely used before Erdoğan was elected president in 2014. According to the Ministry of Justice’s General Directorate of Judicial Records and Statistics, the number of people prosecuted for article 299 has rapidly increased since 2014.

Records reveal that 132 people (including 1 minor) were prosecuted in 2014, 1,953 (76 minors) in 2015, and then the number of cases more than doubled in 2016, with 4,187 (148 minors) prosecuted. In 2016, 54 of the minors prosecuted were aged between 12 and 15. Another spike occurred in 2017, when prosecutions rose to 6,033, with 340 cases concerning minors (42 between 12 and 15).

According to the ministry’s statistics, the number of convictions also rose over the same period. While 40 persons were convicted for insulting the president in 2014, 238 were convicted in 2015, 884 in 2016, and a staggering 2,099 convictions in 2017.