Ex-Miss Turkey sentenced for ‘insulting Erdogan’

Former Miss Turkey Merve Buyuksarac was sentenced to 14 months in prison for publicly insulting Mr Erdogan in a satirical poem

A file photo of the former Miss Turkey Merve Buyuksarac who received a suspended 14-month jail sentence for insulting president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on social media. Emrah Gurel/AP Photo
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Istanbul // A former Turkish beauty queen was found guilty on Tuesday for insulting president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on social media, and was being handed a suspended sentence of more than one year in jail.

A Turkish court sentenced 27-year-old Merve Buyuksara – crowned Miss Turkey in 2006 – to 14 months in prison for publicly insulting Mr Erdogan in a satirical poem she posted on her Instagram account, the Dogan news agency reported.

The punishment has been suspended, it added.

The Master’s Poem – which was shared by the model while Mr Erdogan was serving as prime minister – criticises the Turkish strongman with verses adapted from the national anthem.

Mr Erdogan, who was elected president in August 2014 after serving as prime minister for more than a decade, is often called Buyuk Usta – the big master.

Mr Erdogan’s lawyer, Hatice Ozay, told the court that the model’s posts on social media cannot be considered criticism but rather was an “attack against my client’s personal rights”.

Ms Buyuksarac won the Miss Turkey beauty pageant ten years ago and has since worked as a model as well as appearing on reality TV shows.

After being briefly detained in January 2015, she admitted to sharing the poem which had been printed in a Turkish satirical magazine but said she did not want to insult the president.

Journalists as well as ordinary citizens end up in court for insulting or slandering Mr Erdogan, who is accused by critics of being increasingly authoritarian.

The number of cases has swelled after Mr Erdogan moved to the presidency in 2014.

Justice minister Bekir Bozdag said in March that almost 2,000 people in Turkey have been prosecuted for insulting Mr Erdogan since he became president.

Ironically, Mr Erdogan was himself sent to jail in 1999 for reciting a nationalist and Islamist-tinged poem that the authorities of the time deemed was guilty of “inciting religious hatred”. He was at that time mayor of Istanbul.

* Agence France-Presse