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Prominent journalist Cemal appears in court over insulting Erdoğan

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Renowned journalist Hasan Cemal appeared in court on Wednesday as part of a trial in which he is accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a column he wrote in January.

A case was launched against Cemal earlier this year by the general secretariat of the president’s office on the grounds that the journalist had insulted Erdoğan in a column published on Jan. 4.

Cemal accused Erdoğan of committing a constitutional crime every day. The journalist is facing a prison sentence of from one year to four years, eight months.

During Wednesday’s hearing at the İstanbul 25th Penal Court of First Instance, Cemal denied claims that he insulted the president in his article, saying that his remarks included strong criticism of the president that was within the limits of freedom of expression.

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be extended if the crime is committed through the mass media.

Critics accuse Erdoğan of intolerance and say he is using the law to stifle dissent. Those who have faced trial for insulting Erdoğan include journalists, cartoonists, academics and even teenagers.

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