Critical journalist arrested over insulting the Quran

Turkish authorities have arrested Hakan Aygün, former chief editor of the left-wing opposition-linked Halk TV, on charges of insulting or inciting hatred among people, pro-government Sabah newspaper reported on Friday.

Aygün on Monday had posted a tweet that criticised Turkey’s national donation campaign, announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with wordplay over a verse in the Quran.

“Belittling the book, which is a primary priority for Muslims, and its verses through wordplay is an ugly attack beyond measure,” Mustafa Doğan İnal, a lawyer for Erdoğan who filed the complaint against Aygün, was quoted by Sabah as saying. “Our book the Holy Quran clearly states the fate of such people.”

In the complaint against Aygün, İnal argued that the journalist’s words included “insults and allegations that are impossible to tolerate,” and were “based on slanderous claims.” According to Erdoğan’s lawyer, Aygün’s tweet “insulted and belittled an identifiable group in society,” which was exacerbated due to the public nature of their medium.

İnal included in his complaint a previous post by Aygün, in which the journalist had posted a meme on his Facebook account, joking that the coronavirus had changed the restrictions on alcohol for Muslims, as further proof of malicious intent.

Aygün’s arrest followed the detention of three influential government-critical Twitter accounts on terrorism charges on Thursday. Among the three was the Twitter account Ankara Kuşu (“Ankara Bird”), a once ally for Erdoğan’s government who turned critical of its practices in recent years.

The Turkish government has tightened its grip on criticism as dissent grows over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and deepening economic crisis.

Journalist Hakan Gülseven was detained earlier this week after launching the hashtag #ZırnıkYok (“Not a single penny”) as a criticism on a donation campaign Erdoğan announced on Monday.

Turkey has detained dozens over social media posts since the outbreak began in March.