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Turkish student gets suspended jail term over retweet

ISTANBUL: A Turkish student was handed a suspended one-year prison sentence for “insulting” a local governor by retweeting a satirical article, as concerns grow over the state of freedom of expression in Turkey, reports said Wednesday.

The sentence was the latest in a string of actions to prevent criticism on Twitter of Turkish officials and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Meral Tutcali, a female sociology student from Anadolu University in the city of Eskisehir, retweeted in January 2014 material from Turkish satirical news site “Zaytung”, the Turkish equivalent of the comic American fake news site “The Onion.”

The article featured a photo of Adana Governor Huseyin Avni Cos, standing up in a military vehicle and surrounded by guards, with the headline: “Adana Governor Huseyin Avni Cos has declared his autonomy. Even more powerful than Erdogan.”

Tutcali was briefly detained after police raided and searched her home following a complaint by Cos, news agency Dogan reported.

She was sentenced to one year in jail for “insulting a public servant” but the judges suspended her sentence because she had no criminal record.

“This ruling is just part of a policy to intimidate those who has different views,” Tutcali was quoted as saying by Dogan.”I don’t think I deserve such a sentence, but I haven’t yet given up my hopes of a brighter future”.

Meanwhile in Ankara a lawyer was detained for allegedly calling Erdogan “fascist” during a job interview at the ministry of justice to become a judge.

Umut Kilic accused the committee members of being biased and nepotism after he repeatedly failed the oral examination although he passed the written exams.

“Why are you wasting your time,” Kilic asked, according to Dogan news agency. “You are not going to hire me anyway, you’re all fascist Erdogan’s men.”

The committee members immediately filed a complaint against Kilic and asked the police to detain him. Kilic was placed under detention pending trial in Ankara’s Sincan prison on grounds that there was a risk he could flee.

“I criticised the system, but they took it personally. I said things that could be deemed insulting to Erdogan, but they were about the time when Erdogan was prime minister,” he was quoted as saying by Dogan.

There has been growing concern over the number of cases coming before the courts over purported insults against Erdogan, who became president in 2014 after over a decade as premier.

The authorities have in recent months detaining an increasing number of Turks, from students to celebrities, for personally insulting Erdogan on social media. -AFP

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