96-year-old woman facing judicial ordeal due to Erdoğan insult charges

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A 96-year-old woman is being forced to travel more than 500 kilometers from her home to receive treatment as part of judicial measures imposed on her by a court on the grounds that she insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

A video of Aliye Yabansu, which was shot without her approval in Şanlıırfa province in January 2019 and shared on social media, prompted a criminal complaint against her from an Erdoğan supporter, identified only by the initials M.İ. Acting on the video and the criminal complaint, prosecutors drafted an indictment against Yabansu on charges of insulting the president, which is a crime in Turkey according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

At the final hearing of her trial on Dec. 1, 2020, Yabansu’s lawyer Celil Tanış requested the woman’s acquittal, saying that his client is bedridden and suffers from multiple health problems, adding that it’s not clear in the video that her remarks were aimed at Erdoğan. The lawyer also presented a medical report to the court attesting to the fact that the woman has no criminal liability due to a series of psychological and physiological problems.

In its opinion, the prosecutor, however, asked that judicial security measures be imposed on the woman, which are implemented in the case of persons with no criminal liability in accordance with Article 57 of the TCK and require them to be hospitalized at the nearest high-security hospital to receive treatment and protection.

Although the court ruled for Yabansu’s hospitalization at the nearest hospital, prosecutors demanded that she be transferred to the Kayseri City Hospital by Nov. 5, which is more than 500 kilometers away from her home in Siverek. Her lawyer’s request for Yabansu’s hospitalization at a hospital in Diyarbakır, which is 80 kilometers away, was rejected.

According to lawyer Tanış, Yabansu’s hospitalization at the Kayseri hospital will be tantamount to torture because she will have to travel more than eight hours and will have nobody there to care for her. He said the woman’s biological age is actually above 100 and she suffers from a range of health problems including high blood pressure and diabetes and is unfit for travel.

“Sending this elderly woman to a city and into the hands of people she doesn’t know will be no different than burying her alive,” said the lawyer.

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.

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.

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