Turkish Comedy Veterans in Court After TV Attack Riles Erdogan

(Bloomberg) -- Two of Turkey’s most prominent comedy actors were hauled before a court after a no holds barred take-down of authoritarian rule that appeared to allude to a grisly end for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Police on Monday escorted Metin Akpinar and Mujdat Gezen first to the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul for questioning and then to a court, where the two were banned from traveling abroad and ordered to report to a police station every week. Authorities will consider whether to press criminal charges.

The freedom to publicly criticize Erdogan and his government has been severely curtailed in Turkey two years after a failed military coup. What began as a round-up of followers of the self-exiled cleric Ankara says orchestrated the attempted putsch has expanded into a crackdown on journalists, academics and celebrities opposed to the concentrating of vast executive powers in the presidency, a shift approved in a 2017 referendum.

Akpinar and Gezen drew Erdogan’s ire on Friday as they appeared on Halk TV, a channel supported by the main opposition party CHP.

“Recep Tayyip Erdogan, you can’t test our patriotism, know your boundaries,” said Gezen. That sparked applause, cheers and whistles from the audience at a convention center in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district, some of whom shouted in unison “we’re soldiers of Mustafa Kemal,” a reference to the founder of Turkey’s secular republic, Ataturk.

“The only way out of this polarization and chaos is democracy,” Akpinar said. “How nice if we can reach there” without quarrels and fighting, he said. If not, fascist regimes often see their leader “hung by his feet, maybe he dies by poisoning in a dungeon or faces some other bad end,” Akpinar said.

Both actors are being probed on suspicion of insulting the president, while Akpinar is also being investigated for possibly inciting an armed uprising against the government, state-run Anadolu Agency said, citing the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul. Both Akpinar and Gezen denied targeting or insulting Erdogan, according to Halk TV’s website.

Erdogan had hit back during a speech on Saturday, calling the two “poor excuses” for actors.

“They should go and give an account for it to the judiciary, we can’t leave these things unanswered,” he said. “You want to have this country’s president hanged!”

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