Erkal is charged with “insulting the president” based on three social media posts he shared in 2016 and 2020. Next hearing set for 11 March
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
Stage actor Genco Erkal appeared before a criminal court on 25 November 2021 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299/1, 299/2) based on three social media posts he shared in 2016 and 2020.
Erkal and his lawyers were present at the hearing. The trial is overseen by the Istanbul 16th Criminal Court of First Instance.
P24 monitored the hearing. Pianist Fazıl Say, opposition CHP Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu and TİP Deputy Ahmet Şık were also among spectators.
The judge said that the press and spectators would not be allowed in the courtroom due to Covid-19 measures. Upon objection by Erkal's lawyer Turgut Kazan and the lawmakers, the judge ordered that the door of the courtroom be left open so that the press and spectators who could not enter could follow.
Addressing the court for his defense statement, Erkal said that there was no element of insult in his social media posts. Regarding his post about President Erdoğan’s university diploma, Erkal said that this was a much-debated issue and that in his post, he wrote that he wanted to see the President’s diploma as a citizen. Stating that the tone in his posts was sarcastic, Erkal said his comments were not insults but criticism.
Concerning another Twitter post in which he referred to a 2016 statement by Erdoğan, in which he called himself a “shepherd,” Erkal said: “[The President] may prefer to be a shepherd, but I refuse to be one of the flock. A modern society consists of free individuals, the people cannot be a flock of sheep. I think the Turkish presidential system has been a disaster for our country. This is my main criticism. I have been against the presidential system from the very beginning. People cannot find peace in a system where all powers are gathered in one person.”
Also making a reference to the European Court of Human Rights’ recent Vedat Şorli v. Turkey judgment, Erkal said: “Some 38,000 cases have been filed in the last 6 years for insulting the president. While such cases were counted in the hundreds in previous years, we are talking about tens of thousands of cases in this period. There is a serious violation of freedom of expression here. With the Şorli judgment, the ECtHR says it will no longer see insulting the president as a crime; it says it is against human rights. I don't need to say anything else on this matter.”
Addressing the court following Erkal, President Erdoğan's lawyer claimed that Erkal’s posts “crossed the boundaries of criticism” and requested to join the case.
Erkal's lawyer Turgut Kazan demanded that the court accept the request: “We are wondering what the president, who can be harmed by these comments, will have to say.”
The prosecutor requested that the case file be handed over for the preparation of their final opinion.
The court accepted the request of President Erdoğan's lawyers to join the case. Ruling to send the file to the prosecutor's office for their final opinion, the judge adjourned the case until 11 March 2022.