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Famous Kurdish poet sentenced to prison for insulting Erdoğan

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A local court has sentenced famous Kurdish poet, writer and journalist Yılmaz Odabaşı to nearly a year in prison on conviction of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, local media reported on Wednesday, citing a nonprofit organization.

The Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), an NGO working in the fields of free speech, journalism, Internet freedoms and the right to information, on Wednesday announced on social media that Odabaşı, 59, was handed down a sentence of 11 months, 20 days in the third and final hearing of his trial before the Yalova 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The court did not suspend the sentence, MLSA added.

Odabaşı left Turkey following the November 2015 general election, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been in power since 2002, came to power again as a single party government. He returned to Turkey in 2016 after living abroad.

In 2017 Odabaşı received a suspended sentence of one year, eight months for allegedly insulting Erdoğan in an opinion piece in 2015.

In December 2020 he was arrested in İstanbul shortly after he criticized an ongoing crackdown by the Turkish government on members of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group accused by the government of masterminding a failed coup in 2016 despite a strong denial from the group.

Insulting the president is subject to criminal charges under Turkish law, and thousands of people in the country are under investigation, with most of them being under the threat of imprisonment, over alleged insults of 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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