Erdogan Wants This Instagramming Beauty Pageant Queen to Keep Her Mouth Shut
Former Miss Turkey was handed a 14-month suspended sentence on Tuesday.
In 2006, Merve Buyuksarac won Turkey’s national beauty pageant, earning herself some short-lived teenage fame.
A decade later, she’s known for something else entirely: allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a poem she posted on Instagram in 2014. On Tuesday, that move earned her a 14-month suspended sentence in a Turkish court.
She now has five years to keep her mouth shut about Erdogan, and will only have to serve the 14-month sentence if a court finds she has insulted the Turkish leader again in that time. But considering just how vague Erdogan’s definition of “insult” appears to be, that could be easier said than done.
Erdogan’s prosecutors have opened cases against close to 2,000 people that they say have insulted the leader since he was elected president in 2014.
The model’s lawyer, Emre Telci, told the Associated Press Tuesday that he plans to appeal the Turkish court’s decision at the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg, France. According to him, the poem she posted on Instagram two years ago was written by someone else and therefore she “has been convicted for words that do not belong to her.” (It was unclear whether he actually meant the European Court of Human Rights, which is based in Strasbourg. The European Court of Justice is based in Luxembourg.)
But the Turkish ruling doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. Last year, Turkish prosecutors put an incredible amount of effort into a court case against Bilgin Ciftci, a physician who shared a collage on social media that compared Erdogan to the fictional character of Gollum from the beloved Lord of the Rings series. Prosecutors said he deserved two years in prison, but the case was suspended when the judge couldn’t decide whether the comparison actually amounted to an insult.
Lately, Erdogan has come under fire for pursuing his obsessive insult-tracking to other nations. In April, Germany succumbed to Erdogan’s demands that authorities open an investigation into whether German comedian Jan Böhmermann broke an obscure and rarely invoked German law when he insulted Erdogan in a satirical television appearance. “These insult trials are being initiated in series, they are being filed automatically,” Telci said Tuesday.
Still, Böhmermann’s dramatic segment makes Buyuksarac’s Instagram post, which referenced widespread Turkish corruption, look kind. Not that Turkish prosecutors would ever admit that. During their court appearances, they reportedly said the Instagram post was “an attack” on Erdogan and surpassed “the limits of criticism.”
Photo credit: Gavan/Getty Images for IMG
Correction, May 31, 2016: Turkish physician Bilgin Ciftci’s name was incorrectly spelled “Cifcti” in an earlier version of this article.