Turkish model faces jail term for 'insulting Erdogan'

Turkish model Merve Buyuksarac (R) says she did not intend to insult Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a poem she posted on her Instagram account (AFP Photo/) (AFP/File)

Ankara (AFP) - A former Miss Turkey beauty queen faces up to 4.5 years in prison on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the latest in a growing number of such cases, reports said Wednesday.

Turkish prosecutors said an investigation had been launched against model Merve Buyuksarac after Erdogan's lawyer lodged a complaint in November 2014 against a satirical poem taken from a magazine and posted on her Instagram site, state news agency Anatolia reported.

The prosectors stated the charges carry a maximum penalty of 4.5 years behind bars.

The 2006 Miss Turkey, who was briefly detained last month, told an Istanbul court that she did not intend to insult the president.

In her testimony, Buyuksarac said she may have quoted a poem called the "Master's Poem" from weekly Turkish satirical magazine Uykusuz.

But the 26-year-old said she later deleted it after one of her friends warned her that such posts could bring criminal charges in Turkey.

The "Master's Poem" -- which was shared by the model while Erdogan was serving as prime minister -- criticises the Turkish strongman with verses adapted from the national anthem.

Erdogan, who was elected president in August after steering the country as prime minister since 2003, is often dubbed "Buyuk Usta" (the Big Master).

"I did not make the adaptation. I shared it because I found it funny," she said.

- Erdogan jailed for poem -

Prosecutors said the posts could not be considered "in the context of freedom of expression" and were guilty of "exceeding the boundaries of criticism" and "overtly humiliating" the president.

The court is due to decide whether to start full legal proceedings and a trial.

Erdogan, then mayor of Istanbul, was himself imprisoned for four months in the late 1990s for reciting an Islamist poem that was deemed an incitement to religious hatred.

But after consolidating his power in Turkish politics, he has repeated the verses again and again.

In a statement posted on her Twitter account, Buyuksarac said "if there will ever be a trial" it would be on charges of "insulting a public official."

She also appeared to defend her conduct.

"If you google the poem I shared (the one that does not include any insult), you will see 960,000 more people shared it... it's interesting, isn't it?"

The case is the latest in a string of recent incidents in European Union hopeful Turkey, where protesters as well as journalists have found themselves facing criminal lawsuits or jail time after being accused of insulting or slandering Erdogan.

In a case that attracted wide attention, teenage schoolboy Mehmet Emin Altunses will go on trial on March 6 on charges of insulting the president in a speech in the conservative Anatolian city of Konya.

Four young people were arrested in four days last week on different charges of insulting the Turkish strongman during street protests this month.

Erdogan has long been accused by critics of being increasingly authoritarian and intolerant of criticism.

In the past, he sued a newspaper cartoonist for portraying him as a cat entangled in a ball of wool.