Turkish Journalist Cites Proverb, Gets Arrested for Insulting President Erdogan

The law on insulting the president, which carries a jail sentence of up to four years, was used to sentence thousands of people in the seven years since Erdogan became Turkey's president

Reuters
Haaretz
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, in 2018.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, in 2018. Credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Reuters
Haaretz

A Turkish court on Saturday ordered well-known journalist Sedef Kabas to be jailed pending trial on a charge of insulting President Tayyip Erdogan, CNN Turk said, targeting her with a law under which tens of thousands have been prosecuted.

Police detained Kabas at around 2 A.M. (2300 GMT) and took her first to Istanbul's main police station before transferring her to the city's main courthouse, where a court subsequently ruled in favor of her formal arrest, the broadcaster said.

The alleged insult was in the form of a palace-related proverb that Kabas expressed both on an opposition television channel and on her Twitter account, criticizing the government for clamping down on its critics and for stoking polarization in society, drawing condemnation from government officials.

"When an ox shows up in a palace. it doesn't become a king. But the palace becomes a barn," Kabas later wrote on Twitter, citing a "Circassian proverb" and without naming any person or place.

"The honor of the presidency's office is the honor of our country... I condemn the vulgar insults made against our president and his office," Fahrettin Altun, head of Turkey's Communications Directorate, wrote on Twitter.

Merdan Yanardag, chief editor of the Tele 1 channel on which Kabas made the comment, sharply criticized her arrest.

Sedef Kabas taken to court in Istanbul, on Saturday.Credit: A Haber

"Her detention overnight at 2 A.M. because of a proverb is unacceptable," he wrote on Twitter. "This stance is an attempt to intimidate journalists, the media and society."

The law on insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years.

Last October, Europe's top human rights court called on Turkey to change the legislation after ruling that a man's detention under the law violated his freedom of expression.

Thousands have been charged and sentenced over the crime of insulting Erdogan in the seven years since he moved from being prime minister to president.

In 2020, 31,297 investigation were launched in relation to the charge, 7,790 cases were filed and 3,325 resulted in convictions, according to Justice Ministry data. Those numbers were slightly lower than the previous year.

Since 2014, the year Erdogan became president, 160,169 investigations were launched over insulting the president, 35,507 cases were filed and there were 12,881 convictions.

DPA contributed to this report.

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