Too precious: Turkish president's comparison to Gollum earns suspended jail sentence

The image of Gollum and the Turkish president shared on Facebook was deemed to be offensive. Photo / File
The image of Gollum and the Turkish president shared on Facebook was deemed to be offensive. Photo / File

A man has been handed a suspended jail sentence for insulting the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan by depicting him as the Lord of the Rings character Gollum.

According to reports, a court in the south-west province of Antalya sentenced Rifat Çetin to a year in prison, suspended for five years. The court also stripped Cetin of his parental custody rights. The offence of insulting the president is punishable by up to four years in prison.

Cetin posted a photo on Facebook in 2014 which combined three pictures of Erdogan with Gollum. Cetin told the newspaper BirGun he was considering appealing the sentence as Erdogan had been prime minister at the time of the publication of the image and not president.

Since becoming president in 2014, prosecutors have accused 2000 people - or more than three people a day, including cartoonists and a former Miss Turkey - of insulting Erdogan, who has dominated and polarised Turkish politics for a decade and a half.

Erdogan, 62, rules Turkey de facto from a 1150-room palace he had built in Ankara, and is pushing to change the nation's political system to one governed by the president from the current parliamentary model.

Another man, Bilgin Ciftci, a physician and civil servant, who was fired from his job over the affair, is also being tried for sharing a similar picture of Erdogan and Gollum. New Zealand movie director Peter Jackson even weighed into the case in its early stages, offering a statement of defence for Cetin that the pictures actually depicted Smeagol, the benign alter ego of the wretched Gollum.

Sir Peter Jackson offered a defence for the case of Bilgin Ciftci, a physician and civil servant, who was fired from his job for sharing a similar picture of Erdogan and Gollum. Photo / File
Sir Peter Jackson offered a defence for the case of Bilgin Ciftci, a physician and civil servant, who was fired from his job for sharing a similar picture of Erdogan and Gollum. Photo / File

The court's decision depends on the seemingly trivial premise of establishing whether Gollum was in fact a "bad" character or simply corrupted by power. To decide this, a panel of academics, psychologists and cinema experts was established to assess the images and deliberate whether they are offensive.

Jackson and the screenwriter Fran Walsh, said: "If the images ... are in fact the ones forming the basis of this Turkish lawsuit, we can state categorically - none of them feature the character known as Gollum. All of them are images of the character called Sméagol."

The statement added: "Sméagol is a joyful, sweet, character. Smeagol does not lie, deceive, or attempt to manipulate others. He is not evil, conniving, or malicious - these personality traits belong to Gollum, who should never be confused with Sméagol. Sméagol would never dream of wielding power over those weaker than himself. He is not a bully. In fact he's very loveable."

The trilogy's main actor, Ellijah Wood, also expressed his concern over the court case saying on twitter; "That Bilgin Ciftci faces jail time for comparing Erdogan to Gollum/Smeagol, regardless of wether he's good or bad, is horrifying".

- NZ Herald

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