A court on Monday handed down a suspended sentence of 11 months, 20 days to Sabri Uzun, former head of the National Security Directorate’s intelligence department in Ankara, on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on social media, according to local media.
During the latest hearing of his trial in Ankara, Uzun denied the insult charges, saying that he was exercising his constitutional right to express his views on social media and asked for his acquittal.
Uzun was put in pre-trial detention for two months in 2019 as part of an investigation into him due to a tweet he posted on April 17, 2019 when opposition mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu was declared the winner following 17 days of ambiguity over the results of the March 31, 2019 election in İstanbul.
İmamoğlu was first certified as mayor on April 17, weeks after the election, because the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), whose candidate lost the election, disputed the results, asking for a recount of votes in many districts and even demanding that the İstanbul election be held again.
In his tweet Uzun congratulated İmamoğlu for his election and said: “May your time in office be beneficial. I hope you won’t say, ‘Zero the [money], my son.’ I hope you won’t wear a watch that cost TL 750,000. I hope you won’t have seven safes and money counters. May you walk on the right path. Never be diverted from decency. I congratulate your mother and wife [on your success].”
Uzun was referring to the content of voice recordings and evidence in corruption investigations that became public knowledge in late 2013 in which then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s close circles and four ministers were implicated.
At the time voice recordings of two people — alleged to be Erdoğan and his son, Bilal — circulated on the Internet.
The voices were heard discussing how to get rid of large amounts of money from an undisclosed residence with the alleged voice of Erdoğan telling his son to “zero” the money. Erdoğan denied the corruption charges and labeled the investigations a coup attempt against his government.
Meanwhile, the results of the İstanbul vote were cancelled by the country’s election authority on May 6; however, İmamoğlu was again elected mayor in a repeat vote on June 23.
Uzun’s lawyer Ümit Kara said his client did not aim to insult Erdoğan in his tweets and wanted only to congragulate İmamoğlu on his success. However, Erdoğan lawyer Hüseyin Aydın wanted Uzun to be punished, saying Uzun aimed to insult his client.
Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.