Ali Cemal Ağırman, a 52-year-old retired worker, was brought to the attention of the 2nd Zonguldak Criminal Court of General Jurisdiction on April 19 for insulting President Gül. After a short trial, the court sentenced Ağırman to 15 months in prison. The sentence was suspended.
Ağırman said in his defense that he was unaware his comments on Facebook, posted on February 15-18, constituted a crime. “I haven’t done anything intentionally. I am retired, and haven’t even been to a police station in my life. I have a clean criminal record,” he said, “I wish to be acquitted.” It is a crime to insult the president based on the Turkish Penal Code clause 299/1.
State-owned Anatolia Agency reported without further detail that Ağırman was previously accused of insulting PM Erdoğan, and “degrading the values of a certain portion of society based on class, race, religion, sect, gender, and location,” as the clause 216 of the Turkish Penal Code reads.
This is one of numerous charges in Turkey regarding online libel—we recently reported a minor who got sentenced a year in prison—even in the form of private Facebook activity. The government is frequently accused of being exceptionally intolerant to criticism and systematically intimidating the more vocal dissidents of the public.