Man could get two years in jail for saying the Turkish president looks like Gollum

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is probably, like all people, a complicated being. His leadership has certainly received some well-deserved criticism: Under Erdogan, journalists who have spoken out against the leading administration have been silenced, and businesses whose leaders are sympathetic to the opposition have been punished. He also fiercely shuts down protests and has been engulfed in a corruption scandal with staying power. But he is repeatedly elected into office, and has overseen periods of economic stability that have endeared him to some Turkish voters.


So it's hard to decide from afar if Erdogan is a bad man, or a not so bad man. Who can truly know the human soul, anyway?

It's less hard to decide, however, whether the Turkish president looks like the movie version of The Lord of the Ring's Gollum. He does. And Erdogan is not pleased with the comparison.


A Turkish doctor, Bilgin Ciftci, shared the meme to his Facebook page and is now facing trial for possibly insulting the president, an offense that is illegal under Turkish law. The problem is that the judges hearing the trial—Today's Zaman reports that the case has been heard four times with no decision—don't know whether Gollum is good or bad. Today's Zaman has more details:

The chief judge gave the decision after Hicran Danışman, a lawyer representing Çiftçi, asked him whether or not he had seen the movie series “The Lord of the Rings.” Saying that he had seen only seen parts of them, the chief judge postponed the hearing until Feb. 13, 2016. Danışman stated in a previous hearing that neither the prosecutor nor the chief judge had seen the movies, even though the character of Gollum was at the center of the case.

Five experts will be called upon to reach a decision on Gollum's character, including two academics, a movie buff, and two behavioral scientists. You'd think the judge could just read the book, or at least read the many online debates on the topic, or watch the movie, but whatever.

If the case is decided in February (when the case will be revisited) that Gollum is a positive character, one who is perhaps just misunderstood, whose apparent greed and thirst for power are just expressions of a tortured, golden soul, for example, Ciftci will remain free. If he is determined to, for instance, be a selfish, narcissistic, heartless creature whose desire for the ring supplants all reason, then Ciftci will go to jail for up to two years. Meme carefully, Turks.


Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.

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