A Turkish court has convicted Miss Turkey 2006 of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, giving her a 14-month suspended prison sentence.
27 year old model Merve Buyuksaracwas found guilty of insulting a public official for postings she made on social media in 2014. The case was based on a satirical verse she had reposted on her Instagram account.
The so-called ‘Master’s Poem, ’ an adaptation of the Turkish national anthem, allegedly criticizes Erdogan, who served as prime minister for more than a decade prior to becoming president and has often been called “Buyuk Usta” [the Big Master]. The poem did not mention Erdogan by name, but made reference to a corruption scandal that allegedly involved his family.
During the hearings, the President’s lawyer, Hatice Ozay, stressed that Buyuksarac’s Instagram post had gone beyond “the limits of criticism” and was in fact “an attack” on Erdogan’s personal rights.
Buyuksarac was briefly arrested at the time the post was made, but then freed as she denied insulting Erdogan. The case however resurfaced, with Tuesday’s court’s decision based on a previously rarely-used Turkish law that forbids insulting the head of state.
The law has been used increasingly often lately to silence those critical of Erdogan’s policies. Since becoming president in 2014, he has filed up to 2,000 cases under this law in trials targeting journalists, foreign and domestic, academics, politicians, comedians, and now – models.
This spring has in fact been rich with cases of Ankara’s witch-hunt on those critical of the current government.
Also on Tuesday, Cengiz Candar, a former columnist for Radikal and Hurriyet newspapers who’s been in the profession for over 40 years, appeared in Istanbul court accused of insulting Erdogan in a series of articles he wrote in the summer of 2015, criticizing Turkey’s renewed conflict against Kurdish rebels. The veteran journalist and an adviser to the late Turkish head of state Turgut Ozal faces up to four years in prison if found guilty.
“These court cases must come to an end,” he told reporters outside the courthouse. “These trials must immediately end with acquittals so that the presidency of the Turkish Republic can preserve its respectability.”