Turkish court sentences famous lawyer to prison over 'sharia' remark

A Turkish court handed a nine-month sentence to renowned lawyer Feyza Altun for “public incitement to hatred and enmity” with her “sharia” remark. The lawyer was acquitted in a separate trial for “insulting the President” charges on the same day. 

Duvar English

An Istanbul court on May 16 sentenced lawyer Feyza Altun to nine months for “public incitement to hatred and enmity” with her social media post slandering sharia.

The court deferred Altun’s verdict, meaning the lawyer will not serve her sentence unless she commit an offense within the next five years.

In her defense statement, Altun explained that her social media post was intended as a reply, and was blown out of proportion by ill-meaning people. 

“I cannot condone Sharia law in my country, because Turkey is a secular state,” said the lawyer, adding that her remark was not intended against religious freedom. 

Altun said they would appeal the sentence, and she did not regret her post. 

The lawyer was detained on Feb. 19 after religious figures targeted her social media post, “F**k Sharia.” 

The oppositional lawyer had another hearing on the same day, for allegedly “insulting the Turkish President” in another statement. The court acquitted Altun on the charges.

“Insulting the president” is a punishable offense according to Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code, with imprisonment of one to four years. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has investigated and tried increasingly more people for the offense, leading to criticism for curbing freedom of expression and democratic deliberation.

Insulting the president lawsuits have increased 71 times since 2009, according to the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) 2023 report on freedom of expression violations

Accordingly, 17,116 people, including journalists and even school children, received sentences for the offense between 2009 and 2023.