Cumhuriyet columnist faces up to four years in jail for ‘insulting Erdoğan’

Cumhuriyet columnist faces up to four years in jail for ‘insulting Erdoğan’

ISTANBUL - Doğan News Agency
Cumhuriyet columnist faces up to four years in jail for ‘insulting Erdoğan’ An Istanbul prosecutor has demanded that daily Cumhuriyet columnist Özgür Mumcu be sentenced to four years and eight months in jail for “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Mumcu is being tried over an op-ed published on March 18, 2015 titled “Tyrant and a coward,” in which he blasted Erdoğan’s criticism of Hatice Cömert, the mother of Gezi protest victim Abdullah Cömert.

“It is well-known that tyrants are always fearful. They are so fearful that they would even file a complaint against someone like Abdullah Cömert’s mother,” the piece read.

During the first hearing of the case on Feb. 2 at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse, Mumcu denied that the article included any kind of insult.

“The piece is a critical text referring to [President Erdoğan] complaint against the mother of Abdullah Cömert after her statements following his death. This article was written following Erdoğan’s complaint, which had been widely reported in the media,” Mumcu said at the trial.

“As a columnist, I used my right to criticize. I’m a lawyer and professor myself. The testimonies and annexes that we have presented to court include samples of European Court of Human Rights [ECHR] rulings and also domestic laws. Therefore, I do not accept the accusations,” he added.

Hatice Özay, the lawyer of Erdoğan, defended the president’s case, saying Mumcu described him in the column as “a tyrant who oppresses his people, treating them without mercy.” 

“We think this wording exceeds the limits of criticism. For these reasons, we demand a punishment for the defendant,” she said. 

The court decided to postpone the proceedings, offering time to the lawyers of each side to present evidence and assertions.

In his defense, Mumcu also cited the case of Metin Lokumcu, who died of a heart attack in the Black Sea town of Hopa in 2011 during a police intervention against a protest.

He also referred to the case of Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old boy who died after 269 days in coma having been shot in the head by a police tear gas canister during the Gezi Park protests. Mumcu described Erdoğan’s stated attitude on these incidents as “cold-hearted.”

Erdoğan was widely accused of encouraging his supporters to boo Elvan’s family at a public rally in 2014.