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Turkish comedian sent to jail for insulting Atatürk, Rumi

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Turkish comedian Emre Günsal has been arrested on charges of insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, and the famous mystic Rumi in his shows, according to Turkish media reports.

The detention warrant for Günsal was issued by the Konya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which also accused him of insulting Konya province and its people. The comedian was arrested in İstanbul and subsequently jailed on Friday.

In his shows Günsal made jokes about the drinking habits of Atatürk as well as the relationship between Rumi and his spiritual instructor Shams, implying that they were actually lovers.

Law 5816, titled “The Law Concerning Crimes Committed Against Atatürk,” in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) protects “the memory of Atatürk” from insult by any Turkish citizen. An offense against the memory of Atatürk is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Freedom of speech is a contested issue in Turkey, where dozens of people are prosecuted every day for expressing their views about the government and their actions as well as issues deemed “taboo” in Turkey like Atatürk.

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