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Veteran Turkish actor interrogated over ‘threats to Erdogan’

Famous Turkish actor Metin Akpinar was briefly detained by police and testified to Istanbul prosecutors on Monday after authorities opened a probe into whether the comments he made on television constituted a call on the military to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, local media reported.

Akpinar, also a well-known comedian in Turkey, is accused of making “insulting” statements against Erdogan and calling for a military coup.

“If we do not reach this (democracy), like what happened to all forms of fascism, the leader might be hung from his feet or maybe poisoned in the cellars or meet the same end as other leaders in the past,” he reportedly said on television on Friday.

The Istanbul public prosecutor said on Sunday that Akpinar was being investigated over “insulting comments that targeted the Turkish president with coup and death threats”.

Akpinar, 77, and another Turkish actor, Mujdat Gezen, had been taken by police officers separately to give testimony in the same investigation.

Akpinar had also claimed on opposition Halk TV that any leader who “turned to Russia except Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) left office” through coups.

Ataturk was the founder of modern Turkey.

Social media users condemned the fact that the Akpinar and Gezen were detained by police who went to their houses early in the morning, commenting that the pair would have already gone to the courthouse to testify on their own will.

While journalist Asli Aydintasbas‘ tweeted, saying “Turkey’s leading comic being detained by police this morning after the president lashed out at his comments on a TV show. So not funny,” Sinan Ulgen, a former diplomat and head of a Turkish think tank, said “Not just leading comic. Metin Akpinar is an institution in Turkish popular culture. He is the country’s most well known and respected comedian.”

In another striking comment, journalist Ilhan Tanir pointed out that Akpinar produced prominent theater plays, where he satirized Turkey’s military dictatorship that came to power in 1980, while he is currently accused of “calling for a military coup”.

Another Twitter user, a university student according to her bio, wrote with the hashtags dedicated to the two prosecuted actors: “Am I the only one feeling like I’m trapped in the novel 1984?”, in reference to George Orwell‘s famous book.

Turkey has witnessed three military coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980. In 1997, an army-led campaign forced the government to resign and then in July 2016, there was an attempted overthrow of Erdogan blamed on a U.S.-based Muslim preacher.

Akpinar said democracy was the “only option to save Turkey from polarization”.

Gezen, 75, was more direct in his remarks against Erdogan on the same program: “He tells the people ‘know your place’. Look Recep Tayyip Erdogan, you cannot test our patriotism. Know your place.”

The investigation into the men came after the president said on Sunday: “They should be brought to account for this by the judiciary.”

Erdogan hit out at the “so-called artists” during a speech in Istanbul. “We cannot leave this business without giving a response, they will pay the price.”

Thousands of Turks including artists and journalists have been prosecuted in recent years over allegedly insulting Erdogan, although most have not been imprisoned.


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