Turkish editor gets 21-month suspended jail sentence for ‘insulting’ Erdoğan
ANKARAAn Ankara court on June 16 handed down a 21-month suspended jail sentence to an editor of an English-language Turkish daily newspaper after convicting him of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The Ankara penal court said Today’s Zaman editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş was guilty of “insulting” Erdoğan in a tweet, which implied Erdoğan’s late mother would have been ashamed of him had she lived to see what he was doing to Turkey, Agence France-Presse had reported.
Erdoğan’s mother Tenzile died in 2011 and the then-prime minister had grieved publicly for his loss.
The tweet was posted in July 2014, when Erdoğan was serving his last months as prime minister just before he became the country’s first president elected by popular vote in August 2014.
In his defense, Keneş argued he was protected by Turkish law on freedom of speech and noted he did not even indicate in the tweet that he was referring to Erdoğan. But the court rejected his arguments, giving him a sentence of one year and nine months.
However, the court decided to suspend the sentence for five years. The 21-month prison sentence will be implemented if Keneş commits another crime in the next five years.
This is not the first time Keneş has faced a criminal charge by Erdoğan or Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. Last month, six court decisions were handed down to Keneş over his tweets in a single day after Davutoğlu filed complaints, according to a report in Today’s Zaman.
Today’s Zaman, which is the English version of the Turkish language daily Zaman, is allegedly close to the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
Following stunning corruption allegations in 2013 against Erdoğan’s inner circle, thousands of alleged members of Gülen’s movement were purged from the police force and judiciary.
Erdoğan has filed criminal complaints citing “insults” against scores of people in Turkey since he was elected to office. Some of the suspects, who may face up to 4.5 years in prison, have included journalists, cartoonists, students and even a former Miss Turkey.
A special report released March 27 by the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) listed the increasing number of defamation suits as one of the factors threatening free speech in Turkey.