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Turkish journalist arrested, charged with insulting Erdogan

A Turkish journalist was arrested and charged with “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday.

Sedef Kabas’s arrest came roughly one week after she participated in a live interview on Tele1, an opposition television channel, CNN reported, citing state broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television, TRT Haber.

She was reportedly taken at a hotel on Friday, where she was residing overnight.

During the interview, Kabas referred to Erdogan through traditional Turkish sayings and not by name.

“A crowned head gets wiser, but we see that it is not true,” Kabas said in reference to Erdogan’s almost two decades in leadership before assuming the posts of prime minister then president, according to CNN.

“When a cattle enters a palace, he will not be a king, but that palace becomes a barn,” she added.

Kabas was sent to prison by Istanbul’s chief public prosecutor’s office following an investigation after she made the comments in question, CNN reported, citing TRT Haber.

She was brought to the police station early Saturday morning then transported to the prosecutor’s office, according to CNN. She then appeared before a judge in Istanbul court, where she was arrested. Cameras were reportedly recording at the courthouse.

Ugur Poyraz, a lawyer for Kabas, wrote on Twitter “declare that we will fight to the end against unlawfulness.”

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül talked of the situation without mentioning Kabas by name in a tweet on Saturday, in which he denounced negative statements being made about Erdogan.

“​​I curse the ugly words that target our President, who was elected by the votes of our nation. These endless and unlawful expressions arising from envy and hatred will find the response they deserve in the conscience of the nation and in front of justice,” he wrote, according to CNN.

Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun appeared to accuse Kabas of insulting Erdogan in an effort to spread “hatred.” He did not mention the journalist in his statement on Twitter.

“Politics, opposition, and journalism all have morals. Those who see this morality in this country too much are the poor people who have no self-respect. A so-called journalist is blatantly insulting our President on a television channel that has no goal other than spreading hatred!!” Altun said, according to CNN.

Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit media organization, reacted to the news of Kabas’s arrest by highlighting the large number of journalists who have received retribution since Erdoğan took office.

“No less than 200 journalists were prosecuted, and 70 journalists were sentenced on similar charges since Erdogan was elected President in August 2014,” the group said, according to CNN.

Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 to arrange a marriage license. He was allegedly killed by a Saudi hit squad. Khashoggi was a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

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