Man Put on Trial For Comparing Turkish President to Gollum from Lord of the Rings

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By Kieran Corcoran | 4:18 am, April 20, 2017
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A Turkish man who posted a meme comparing his president to Gollum from Lord of the Rings has been taken to court.

Bilgin Çiftçi, a doctor from western Turkey, shared a series of images on Facebook showing the creepy Hobbit thing and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in strikingly similar poses. It’s funny:

However, Erdogan is not famous for his sense of humor – and Turkish prosecutors launched a case under a ridiculous law which makes it a crime to “publicly denigrate state officials”.

Rarely in cases like these, sense has prevailed – according to Middle East Eye, Çiftçi was acquitted of his meme crime on Tuesday.

But that did not stop him losing his job in a government medical agency during the process.

Another man who shared the meme was given a suspended prison sentence and stripped of his rights over his child.

The case prompted the bizarre exercise of Turkish judges being presenting evidence from The Lord of the Rings analysing the character of Gollum in an attempt to work out exactly how insulting the comparison was.

Peter Jackson, who directed the LOTR movie trilogy, even intervened in a somewhat nerdy attempt to defend Çiftçi.

Jackson argued that the images show Smeagol, Gollum’s wide-eyed, benign alter ego – and are therefore not really comparing him to a twisted villain.

It is unclear how much weight Jackson’s intervention carried.

But in a statement to Middle East Eye, Çiftçi’s lawyer said that crafting their case required watching the films over and over to gather evidence that the comparison was more flattering than it seemed.

Erdogan is frequently denigrated for being a thin-skinned, dictatorial figure who brooks no criticism – and has even used the laws of other countries to pursue critics who are not Turkish.

When a German comedian, Jan Böhmermann, read out a deliberately offensive poem on TV, claiming Erdogan was sexually attracted to goats, he demanded Germany prosecute him using an obscure, forgotten statue defending the honor of foreign heads of state.

His cavalier attitude to free speech (which extends to locking up political opponents and smashing up TV stations) has not dented his popularity at home, however.

This weekend, Erdogan triumphed in a referendum which will remove checks and balances in the Turkish government, giving him even more power.