Turkish journalist Hakan Aygün sentenced to prison for making religious pun

Turkish journalist Hakan Aygün was sentenced to seven months and 15 days in prison on March 16 for making a religious pun in a tweet he shared last spring. Criticizing the president's fundraising campaign at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aygün had made a play on the words "Oh those who believe" in Turkish and said, "Oh those who IBAN."

Duvar English

Journalist Hakan Aygün was sentenced to seven and a half months in prison for making a play on words about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's fundraising campaign to combat the COVID-19 pandemic last April. 

Aygün had made a pun using the phonetic similarity between the Turkish word for "believe" and the word IBAN, a banking term used to define a unique number assigned to each bank account. 

"Oh those who IBAN," said Aygün in a tweet where he changed the words to an excerpt from the Quran to make it about IBAN numbers. 

The journalist was briefly detained on charges of "inciting hatred and enmity" among the public and "insulting religious values," although the Constitutional Court later ruled that his detention was a violation of his rights, and ruled that he receive 40,000 Turkish Liras in emotional damages.

Directly conflicting the Constitutional Court ruling about Aygün's detention, a Bodrum court issued the ruling on March 16, even though the court found no digital proof that the tweet was shared by the journalist himself, he said. 

"They ruled that I 'must have' tweeted that message because I criticized the government's stance on the IBAN issue while defending myself," Aygün said in a tweet on March 16.

Aygün jokingly said that his conviction was "great proof" that Erdoğan's long-promised Human Rights Action Plan has started working nicely, and noted that his sentence was relatively less crucial compared to the prisoners in Turkey who have been incarcerated unjustly for years. 

Journalists who are critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the president often receive sentences on bogus charges.