A journalist said on Thursday she has been sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in jail on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Sedef Kabas, a prominent journalist, and former anchorwoman tweeted: “I was handed down a prison sentence of 11 months and 20 days [by a Turkish court] on a charge of insulting the president. Whereas there was not even a single name in my writings [for which I was sued].”
Known for being critical of Erdogan, Kabas had previously faced another jail sentence when she tweeted in December 2014 about an Erdogan-appointed high-level prosecutor, Hadi Salihoglu, who allegedly covered up a massive corruption probe against a circle with links to Erdogan.
“Never forget the name of the judge who dropped the investigation,” her tweet read.
The next day, police turned up at her home, confiscating her laptop and phone.
A five-year prison term hanged over her head for allegedly “targeting public servants tasked with fighting against terrorism” and another five years and four months for showing “resistance” to the police as she made them wait at her front door during the raid.
In 2015, the TV journalist was acquitted on both charges.
“Insulting the president” is a crime in Turkey
According to Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), “insulting the president” is a crime in Turkey which could result in a four-year prison sentence, and even longer if committed through mass media.
The article has been in the TCK since 1926, however, was rarely used in practice before Erdogan’s term in office. Kabas example is just one of a growing number of such “insult” cases initiated by individuals or lawyers, not by the president, but are often backed by the presidency’s legal team.
The number of people who have been prosecuted and convicted according to Article 299 has risen rapidly since Erdogan assumed the presidency in 2014.
Convictions have increased thirteenfold in the first three years of Erdogan’s tenure when compared to the tenure of the previous president, Abdullah Gul.
The number of people prosecuted in 2014 was 132. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the number of people prosecuted was 1,953, 4,187 and 6,033 respectively.
The number of actual convictions was 40 in 2014, 238 in 2015, 884 in 2016 and 2,099 in 2017.
“Turkish courts have convicted thousands of people in the past four years for simply speaking out against the president,” said Benjamin Ward, Europe, and Central Asia acting director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) – an independent human rights organization that investigates and reports abuse happening around the world.