A doctor is facing some serious jail time after he insulted the president in a Gollum meme, which compares him to a fictional character from the hugely popular fantasy film, The Lord of the Rings. As explained in a report from the Telegraph, Turkish doctor Bilgin Çiftçi is accused of sharing a meme which compares Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to Gollum, a small, slimy creature from J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel series.
Insulting the head of state is a crime punishable with jail time in Turkey, and Çiftçi was promptly put on trial after the meme was spotted in his Facebook feed, the Washington Post wrote. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the judge in the case said he had only seen parts of the movie, so the Turkish court ordered an expert opinion to decide whether Gollum and the country’s president are similar, and also to determine whether the doctor should go to prison.
The court must decide whether the doctor has committed the crime of “insulting the president” by sharing the Gollum meme, which compares Erdoğan’s face with Gollum’s on social networks. If convicted, Çiftçi faces a prison sentence up to two years.
The defense has stressed that Gollum is not an evil character, so it can not determine a criminal intent. Çiftçi insisted that he hadn’t insulted anyone at all and his lawyer, Hicran Danışman, challenged the chief judge for his reading of the complicated character.
Both the judge and the prosecutor in Aydin, the town in western Turkey where the trial takes place, admitted that they had not seen all of the film, which was why the court decided to appoint a team of “experts,” which is comprised of two academics, two behavioral scientists, and an expert on cinema and television productions.
Çiftçi’s lawyer, Hicran Danisman, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that she was forced to argue in court this week that “Gollum is not a bad character” because she got “nowhere” with a defense case based on freedom of expression.
The court adjourned the case until February, while the experts analyze Gollum and the panel will make its decision based on the results of the analysis of the character, Fox News reported.
Court examines Erdogan-Gollum meme https://t.co/QWS2AE6mQH— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) December 1, 2015
Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code states that anyone who insults the president can face penalties of up to four years in prison, expandable to six if the insult was made in public.
According to Today’s Zaman, Article 299 is compared to the notorious Article 301 that was eliminated from the TCK in 2008 by Parliament. Regarding Article 299, Baskın Oran, a professor of international relations and a columnist for the Radikal daily, said on Tuesday that like Article 301, the current one will also be eliminated.
“In the past, Article 301 was used to protect ‘Turkishness,’ and anyone who was deemed critical of the Turkish state would have been imprisoned. Now, this article is resurrected in the form of protecting Erdoğan. Anyone who is considered to have violated the article is being arrested and many face compensation penalties. Until the current article is wiped out, many authors, cartoonists and academics will suffer a mental cruelty for they are targeted through the law,” Oran explained.
In recent years, several Turkish and international organizations have expressed concern over the decline in freedom of expression in Turkey, where hundreds of cases have been opened for alleged insults to the president. These cases have involved defendants ranging from school-age kids who shared material via social networks, to public figures for a similar offense as the above.
Do you believe it is an insult to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be compared to Gollum? Share your opinions in the comments section below.
[Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images News]