A court in Istabul today, Tuesday 31, convicted a former Miss Turkey of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan through social media postings and gave her a 14-month suspended sentence.
27-year-old Merve Buyuksarac was found guilty of insulting a public official but immediately suspended the sentence on condition that she does not reoffend within the next five years.
Her lawyer, Emre Telci, said he would file a formal objection to the verdict and appeal her case at the Strasbourg, France-based European Court of Justice.
Buyuksarac, who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2006, was briefly detained last year for sharing a satirical poem on her Instagram account in 2014. The posting, an satarical adaptation of the Turkish national anthem, was shared thosands of times on social media, and it was considered by proscutors to be insulting to Mr Erdogan, who was then prime minister. Buyuksarac, however, denied insulting him.
Since becoming president in 2014, Erdogan has filed close to 2,000 defamation cases under a previously seldom-used law that bars insulting the president. Free speech advocates say the law is being used aggressively to silence and intimidate critics.
The trials have targeted journalists, academics and even schoolchildren. Coupled with a crackdown on opposition media and journalists, the trials have sounded alarms over the erosion of rights and freedoms in a country that was once seen as a model of Muslim democracy.
Erdogan caused an uproar last month when, on the basis of an archaic German law that criminalizes insulting foreign heads of state, he went after a German comedian who mocked him in a profanity-packed poem.
“These insult trials are being initiated in series, they are being filed automatically,” Telci told The Associated Press by telephone after the verdict. “Merve was prosecuted for sharing a posting that did not belong to her. My client has been convicted for words that do not belong to her.”
Thousands of others also posted the poem. It did not mention Erdogan by name, but alluded to a corruption scandal that allegedly involved his family.
Before the verdict was announced, Erdogan’s lawyer, Hatice Ozay, argued in court that Buyuksarac’s Instagram post had gone beyond “the limits of criticism” and amounted to “an attack” on the Turkish leader’s personal rights, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.