Former Turkish football star risks 4 years in jail for ″insulting Erdogan″


Turkey's former international football star Hakan Sukur risks up to four years in jail after being charged with insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in posts on Twitter, reports said on Wednesday. Prosecutors have charged Sukur with posting Tweets from his account @HakanSukur containing "insulting content against Mr President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his son," the private Dogan news agency reported.

In his defence, Sukur, 44, said he did not intend to target the president in his posts, the content of which was not made clear. But that was rejected by prosecutors, who claimed that the tweets were "clearly related" to Erdogan, the news agency said.

If convicted, Sukur faces up to four years in jail, according to the charges. As the indictment has been approved, a first hearing is expected in the coming weeks.

Sukur, a striker whose football career stretched from 1987-2007, was by far the most prolific goal scorer in the history of the Turkish national side, finding the net 51 times in 112 appearances. He is also remembered for his electric performance in the 2002 World Cup, where Turkey registered its best ever performance of third place.

After football, the high-profile Sukur went into politics and was in 2011 elected MP for Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). But he resigned in 2013 after a vast corruption probe that targeted Erdogan and his inner circle, siding with the movement of his arch-foe, the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Sukur had voiced objections to the government move to shut down the schools run by Gulen's movement Hizmet.

The legal case is one of a string of others targeting journalists, bloggers and ordinary people who land in court on charges of insulting Erdogan and other top officials. Opponents say Erdogan has become an increasingly polarising figure in Turkey since becoming president in 2014, showing zero tolerance for any criticism on social media or on the streets.

Sukur also responded through Tweets to claims that he has moved to the United States, saying he went to California to work on his project of opening a sports academy and to learn English. It was not immediately clear if he will be present at the trial.    (AFP)

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