Former Miss Turkey Merve Buyuksarac could be prosecuted on a charge that she offended the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, via social media. The model's lawyer told the Associated Press on Wednesday that a post from Buyuksarac's Instagram account has resulted in an Istanbul prosecutor wanting to try her for insulting a public official -- a charge that could land her in jail for up to four years. Buyuksarac, 26, joins nearly 70 people under investigation for ridiculing Erdoğan since his August election.
“It used to be that Turkish leaders would go after journalists for their columns and reporting,” Susan Corke, director of Eurasia programs at watchdog group Freedom House, told Bloomberg. “Now with social media, President Erdoğan and many other Turkish leaders, like Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek, have turned the attack on the whole society.”
Buyuksarac, who was Miss Turkey 2006, posted a humor magazine's satirical poem about Erdoğan on her Instagram last summer. "The Master's Poem" was written in verses riffing off Turkey's national anthem, and the model said she thought it was funny.
Buyuksarac quickly took the post down when a friend told her to delete it.
“I didn’t insult the president -- at that time he was prime minister, so it changes the case,” Buyuksarac told Bloomberg. “I only shared the poem, which was shared by 960,000 people in Turkey, and which is also not an insult.”
She was detained and questioned about the post in January. Prosecutors told Agence France-Presse the Instagram poem was outside the boundaries of criticism and humiliated Erdoğan, who some critics see as overly authoritarian. Roughly every three days over the past six months, his administration has charged someone or another with insulting him.
Erdoğan told a group of businessmen earlier this month that the legal action taken against Buyukscarac and others was in the name of self-defense. A court official will decide whether to take the model's case to trial.