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70-year-old detained on Erdoğan insult charges for sharing proverb that led to journalist’s imprisonment

A 70-year-old man was detained in Turkey on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for sharing a proverb quoted earlier by journalist Sedef Kabaş on a TV broadcast in January that also led to her arrest and imprisonment for more than a month, Deutsche Welle’s Turkish service (DW Türkçe) reported on Saturday.

A Turkish prosecutor is seeking 11 years, eight months in prison for prominent TV journalist Sedef Kabaş, who was arrested in January on charges of insulting Erdoğan, following comments she made about Erdoğan on a TV program.

Commenting on Erdoğan’s years-long performance as president during the television program, Kabaş said, quoting a Circassian proverb, “When an [ox] enters a palace, it doesn’t become a king. [However], that palace becomes a barn.”

Kabaş also posted the proverb on Twitter, which prompted an investigation into her on charges of insulting the president.

Following Kabaş’s release on March 11, Ali Yılmaz expressed his good wishes for her on social media, repeating the Circassian proverb quoted by her.

Yılmaz was detained and released pending trial, but he was re-arrested upon the appeal of the prosecutor and put in pretrial detention, despite saying in his defense that he did not target Erdoğan or anybody in particular by sharing the proverb.

Yılmaz said he suffered from hypertension and heart disease and could not even take his medicine when the police came to detain him.

Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment over alleged insults of President Erdoğan.

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.

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 the president or his government as an insult.

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