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Turkish doctor faces jail for comparing Erdogan, Gollum

Court orders experts to weigh in on issue, which could see defendant imprisoned for ‘insulting’ president with Internet meme

'Lord of the Rings' character Gollum and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (screenshot: YouTube)
'Lord of the Rings' character Gollum and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (screenshot: YouTube)

A Turkish court has asked experts to analyze the Lord of the Rings character Gollum to decide whether a doctor should be jailed for comparing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the figure, reports said Wednesday.

Bilgin Ciftci is facing up to two years in jail for “insulting” the president after sharing images comparing Erdogan to Gollum, a thin, pale, gangrel creature with a personality split between good and evil in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels and the hugely successful films.

Unable to decide whether Erdogan truly looks like Gollum, the court in the western province of Aydin asked a group of experts — two academicians, two psychologists as well as a cinema authority — to determine whether the comparison was an insult, Milliyet newspaper reported.

The judge took the decision after admitting to not having seen the whole of the fantasy blockbusters, based on the novel and directed by Peter Jackson.

The court agreed to adjourn the case until February while the experts analyze Gollum, Milliyet said.

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and screenwriter Fran Walsh defended Ciftci on Thursday.

“If the images… are in fact the ones forming the basis of this Turkish lawsuit, we can state categorically — none of them feature the character known as Gollum. All of them are images of the character called Sméagol,” they said in a statement on Thursday, according to The Guardian, referring to the character’s alter-ego.

“Sméagol is a joyful, sweet, character. Sméagol does not lie, deceive, or attempt to manipulate others. He is not evil, conniving, or malicious — these personality traits belong to Gollum, who should never be confused with Sméagol. Sméagol would never dream of wielding power over those weaker than himself. He is not a bully. In fact he’s very lovable.”

Ciftci was sacked from his hospital and subsequently briefly detained in October for sharing images comparing Erdogan’s facial expressions when eating, expressing surprise and amazement, to those of Gollum.

The case comes amid growing concern over the spiraling numbers of journalists, bloggers and ordinary people who are being taken to court on charges of insulting Erdogan and other top officials.

In another case that has garnered huge attention, model and former Miss Turkey beauty queen Merve Buyuksarac went on trial in May on charges of insulting the president.

Last week, two of Turkey’s most prominent journalists — Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar and its Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul — were arrested on spying charges in a case that has caused global concern.

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