A journalist faces a 4‑year prison sentence for insulting the president.

A Turk­ish court has ordered the impris­on­ment of well-known jour­nal­ist Sedef Kabas pend­ing tri­al for insult­ing Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan under a law that has seen tens of thou­sands of peo­ple prosecuted.

Police arrest­ed Kabas ear­ly Sat­ur­day morn­ing and took her to Istan­bul’s main police sta­tion before trans­fer­ring her to the city’s main court, which ruled in favor of her for­mal arrest.

The alleged insult took the form of a palace-relat­ed proverb that Kabas voiced both on an oppo­si­tion TV chan­nel and on his Twit­ter account, draw­ing con­dem­na­tion from gov­ern­ment officials.

“When the ox goes up to the palace, it does­n’t become king, but the palace becomes a barn,” she tweeted.

Fahret­tin Altun, head of Turkey’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment, denounced the statement.

“The hon­or of the office of the pres­i­dent is the hon­or of our coun­try… I con­demn the vul­gar insults made against our pres­i­dent and his office,” Altun tweeted.

Abdul­hamit Gul, Turkey’s jus­tice min­is­ter, also said on Twit­ter that Kabas would “get what she deserves” for her “ille­gal” remarks.

Kabas, 53, has host­ed a string of high-pro­file tele­vi­sion shows in a career span­ning three decades.

She was sent to Bakirkoy prison in Istan­bul, her lawyer Ugur Poyraz said, adding that he would appeal the “ille­gal” deci­sion on Mon­day. “We hope that Turkey can soon return to the rule of law,” Poyraz added.

Mer­dan Yanardag, edi­tor of the Tele 1 chan­nel, on which Kabas made the com­ments, strong­ly crit­i­cized his arrest.

“His deten­tion overnight at 2 a.m. because of a proverb is unac­cept­able,” he wrote on social media. “This posi­tion is an attempt to intim­i­date jour­nal­ists, the media and society.”

The insult to the pres­i­dent law car­ries a prison sen­tence of one to four years.

Turk­ish media watch­dog RTUK has sep­a­rate­ly opened an inves­ti­ga­tion into Tele 1 for “unac­cept­able state­ments tar­get­ing our pres­i­dent”, its chair­man, Ebubekir Sahin, tweet­ed on Fri­day evening.

Insult Erdo­gan
Last Octo­ber, Europe’s top human rights tri­bunal called on Turkey to change the law after rul­ing that detain­ing a man under the law vio­lat­ed his free­dom of expression.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple have been charged and con­vict­ed for insult­ing Erdo­gan in the sev­en years since he rose from prime min­is­ter to president.

In 2020, 31,297 inves­ti­ga­tions were opened in rela­tion to the pros­e­cu­tion, 7,790 cas­es were filed and 3,325 result­ed in con­vic­tions, accord­ing to Jus­tice Depart­ment data. These fig­ures were slight­ly low­er than the pre­vi­ous year.

Since 2014, when Erdo­gan became pres­i­dent, 160,169 inves­ti­ga­tions have been opened for insult­ing the pres­i­dent, 35,507 cas­es have been filed and there have been 12,881 convictions.

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