The man who depicted Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the Lord of the Rings character Gollum has been convicted of insulting the Turkish president and handed a suspended jail sentence on Thursday.
A Turkish court sentenced Rifat Çetin to a year in prison, suspended for five years. The court also stripped Cetin of his parental custody rights according to Turkish media reports
Çetin will be put behind bars for a year should he commit a similar ‘crime’ within five years.
In 2014, Cetin posted three photographs of Erdogan and not-so-great looking “small and slimy” creature on Facebook, implying that the two look alike. Both Erdogan and Gollum had similar facial expressions. Cetin argued that his post was entirely “harmless.”
Another man, Bilgin Ciftci, is also facing accusations for sharing similar photographs. Ciftci, a physician, insulted the president when he shared a meme comparing Erdogan’s and Gollum’s eating habits and emotions. Ciftci was then expelled from the Public Health Institution of Turkey (THSK) in October.
According to Turkish laws, anyone who insults Turkey’s president may be punished with a prison sentence of up to four years.
As Erdogan was serving as prime minister back in 2014, Cetin said he would appeal the court’s ruling, Turkish media reported.
Erdogan has been trying to suppress any kind of criticism regarding his image and policies. He has received accusations from the international community for backtracking on freedom of speech and leading a clampdown on a wide number of media outlets, journalists and academics.
Since 2014, some 2,000 people are said to have been prosecuted in Turkey for insulting the president. One of the cases that received much attention in the media involved a German comedian who read a ‘derogatory’ poem about the Turkish president in April.