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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Journalist sentenced to prison for insulting Erdoğan

Mine Bekiroğlu, a 28-year-old local journalist from Adana
was sentenced to a five-month prison sentence
journalist in southern Turkey has been sentenced to a five-month suspended prison sentence, while the houses of two more journalists from the same city have been raided by police, all for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğanon their social media accounts.

Mine Bekiroğlu, a 28-year-old local journalist from Adana, was sentenced to a five-month prison sentence by Adana 6th Criminal Court of First Instance on March 19, Doğan News Agency reported. 

The cybercrime unit of the police detained Bekiroğlu and confiscated her computer to investigate her Facebook messages. Ignoring the defense of Bekiroğlu, who said her messages were “critical but not insulting,” the court sentenced her to prison during the first trial session, but suspended the ruling. The sentence will be executed if Bekiroğlu repeats the crime.

Meanwhile, the police raided the houses of  Abdullah Özyurt, a Cihan News Agency correspondent in Adana, and Aytekin Gezici, a former journalist who now works at Seyhan Municipality, early March 19, according to the Çukurova Journalists Association.

“I don’t think that there is any insult in the messages I shared on social media. I expressed my views, and I did not name anyone in my criticism,” Özyurt said.

Gezici, on the other hand, claimed that the police raid was “illegal” and that he was not notified of its reason. “I did not insult anyone. In this country, there are people who are being investigated for sharing the Hadith [quotes from Prophet Muhammad],” he said.

The two journalists, who were not detained, have been called to testify at the Adana Police Department.

‘Big Boss’ in the spotlight
In a separate incident, journalist Mustafa Hoş testified to a prosecutor in Istanbul on March 18 on suspicions that he insulted Erdoğan in his book, titled “Big Boss.”

“I am a journalist. I wrote this book in the scope of the freedom of the press. I have no intention of insulting anyone. A public official’s threshold of tolerance for criticism should be above other people. The rulings of the European Court of Human Rights are in this direction,” Hoş told the prosecutor, according to Doğan News Agency.

Legal procedures against Hoş were launched after Erdoğan’s lawyer Ahmet Özel filed a criminal complaint to the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office on March 9, claiming that his client’s personal rights had been attacked in the book “Big Boss.”

More than 70 people in Turkey have been prosecuted for “insulting” Erdoğan since he was elected to office in August 2014. Daily Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, testified in Istanbul on Feb. 26 over allegations that he insulted the head of state during an interview with a prosecutor that had been investigating corruption, describing the process as a “kind of deterrence policy.”

From Miss Turkey to children
Beside journalists, there are many other people from all professions, including a former Miss Turkey, as well as children, who are being prosecuted for insulting Erdoğan. The Turkish president, through his lawyers, is involved in many of the cases as a plaintiff.

Most recently, Erdoğan was involved in the prosecution of 11 high school students in the western province of Izmir, who were accused of insulting him during a commemoration ceremony for Berkin Elvan, the youngest victim of the Gezi Park protests in 2013. He also filed a criminal complaint against two adults who were present at the same event. All 13 suspects are on trial, with two prosecutors conducting the investigation requesting that the defendents be sentenced to between one and three years in jail.