Turkey’s Erdoğan appeals veteran actors’ acquittal of insult charges

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The lawyer for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed an appeal against a recent ruling by an İstanbul court to acquit two actors of charges of insulting Erdoğan, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Wednesday.

The March 1 acquittal of veteran actors Müjdat Gezen and Metin Akpınar – both in their late 70s and mainstays of Turkish television and film — of charges based on comments during a TV program in 2018 was seen as a rare victory for freedom of expression advocates in Turkey.

Arguing in the appeal that the two actors nurtured enmity towards Erdoğan, the president’s lawyer demanded that they be punished in accordance with the indictment, which called for four years, eight months in prison.

The appeal was filed shortly after the Anadolu 8th Criminal Court of First Instance released its detailed ruling of Gezen and Akpınar’s acquittal, which stated that their remarks on Halk TV were not damaging to anyone’s honor or dignity.

The veteran actors used their show to speak out against a crackdown Erdoğan initiated after surviving a coup attempt in 2016 in which tens of thousands have either been jailed or dismissed from their government jobs.

“If we don’t become a [democracy] … the leader might end up getting strung up by his legs or poisoned in the cellar,” Akpınar said on air, while Gezen told Erdoğan to “know your place.”

The investigation into the two men was launched immediately after Erdoğan hit out at “so-called artists” who publicly attack his rule.

“They should be held to account for this by the judiciary. We cannot leave this business without giving a response, they will pay the price,” Erdoğan said days after the actors’ TV appearance.

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