Turkey's free speech record has settled at rock-bottom under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ece Heper, a Canadian-Turkish dual citizen, was found guilty of insulting the president, accusing him over social media of jailing journalists who link Turkey to ISIS or ISIL, or, as they hate to be called, Daesh. She is temporarily released from prison while her lawyer files an appeal, but she is unable to leave the country.
Heper, 50, was arrested in the northeastern Turkish city of Kars and charged Dec. 30 of last year. Her lawyer, Sertac Celikkaleli, said that she was sentenced to two years and four months of prison time to be followed by banishment from Turkey. Global Affairs Canada has stated that the Canadian government has been providing Heper with support from their embassy in Ankara.
According to her friends, Heper began to travel to Turkey more frequently after she met a man on the Turkish-Syrian border. She told them that he was living in exile in the Kurdish region, but he was arrested in September 2016 for returning to Turkey — potentially for his supposed connections to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group.
Heper's friends say that she went to Kars to bring the man's wife to visit him in jail, but she was arrested in the woman's home for her social media posts attacking Erdogan and the Turkish government.
Since August 2014, about 2,000 defamation cases have been filed against Turkish citizens for insulting Erdogan with a penalty of three to four years prison time if convicted. This authoritarian backlash to free speech has led to some stunning court cases involving everyone from fellow politicians to school children.
One notable case led to suspended jail time and loss of parental custody for the doctor, Bilgin Ciftci. His crime? Posting photos of Gollum alongside pictures of Erdogan.
The phrase "don't dish it if you can't take it" doesn't seem to apply to tyrants.
Banner/thumbnail photo credit: Flickr user Katie Tegtmeyer