Famous Turkish comedian Metin Akpınar, 79, appeared in an İstanbul court on Wednesday on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to Turkish media reports.
Akpınar and another Turkish comedian, Müjdat Gezen, face up to four years, eight months in prison each due to remarks they made about fascism during a program on Halk TV in 2018.
The first hearing in the comedians’ trial took place at the Anadolu 8th Penal Court of First Instance in İstanbul on Wednesday. Gezen, who did not attend the hearing, was represented by his lawyers, while Akpınar made a statement in court and denied the insult charges.
Akpınar said he had devoted 60 years of his life to the well-being of Turkish society and that what he did on the program was to express his views, according to the Sözcü daily.
“I did not say those words with a gun pointed at my head. I made those statements of my own free will and without any pressure,” Akpınar said, adding that he talked about the improvement of democracy and did not directly target the president.
A court in December 2018 released the two prominent comedians from a brief detention on judicial probation including an overseas travel ban after their questioning by a prosecutor on allegations of threatening and insulting President Erdoğan.
Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment, over alleged insults of President Erdoğan. The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of Erdoğan or his government as an insult.
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 increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.