Protesters jailed for insulting Turkey PM: Report

AFP , Wednesday 12 Feb 2014

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo: Reuters)

A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced a group of protesters to two years in jail for chanting slogans deemed insulting to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, local media reported on Wednesday.

The decision comes as Turkey is being criticised at home and abroad for adopting new Internet restrictions seen as a fresh assault on freedom of expression.

Seventeen people in the city of Eskisehir were sued in 2012 for "insulting a civil servant" after chanting slogans during a small demonstration against the government's health policies, the newspaper Hurriyet said.

"Tayyip Erdogan: the servant of the IMF, the servant of the bosses," the group had chanted.

The court sentenced all 17 to two years in jail for "deliberately insulting the premier and not regretting their actions".

The defendants are not entitled to appeal the decision, Hurriyet said.

Turkey has long been criticised for a lack of freedom of expression, most recently for a series of moves seen as signs of a creeping authoritarianism in the country.

The Turkish government approved last week Internet restrictions that enable authorities to block pages deemed insulting or as invading privacy, with opponents slamming them as an attempt by Erdogan to silence dissent.

And on Friday Turkey expelled an Azeri journalist, reportedly for his tweets about a high-level graft probe implicating Erdogan's inner circle.

The government's image has already been badly bruised because of its harsh response to last year's nationwide unrest and recent protests against the corruption scandal.

Hundreds of protesters are currently on trial across the country and at least 36 of them were charged with terrorism.

In a report published on Wednesday, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said that "Turkey has failed to make any improvements in its press freedom record and continues to rank among the 'world's biggest prisons for journalists'."

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