Newspaper's cook arrested for 'insulting Erdogan'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP)

Istanbul - A cook from a Turkish opposition newspaper is in custody, accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after he allegedly said he would not make tea for the country's leader.

Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey's few titles that take a hard anti-Erdogan line, has repeatedly found itself targeted by the authorities. Ten of the newspaper's writers and executives were arrested in November.

The daily said on Monday that the head of its canteen, Senol Buran, was remanded in custody by the Istanbul criminal court following his detention on December 24.

The incident in question occurred when Buran was on his way to work to Cumhuriyet's offices in central Istanbul but found roads were closed as Erdogan was due to give a speech in the area.

READ: EU, US have little leverage as Turkish democracy backslides

Buran is accused of angrily telling police officers: "I would not serve that man a cup of tea". The newspaper said he denies insulting the president, merely saying that he would not serve the tea.

The judge remanded Buran in custody.

Cumhuriyet's former editor-in-chief Can Dundar fled to Germany earlier this year while appealing against a prison term for revealing state secrets and he is now the target of a Turkish arrest warrant.

Critics accuse Erdogan of severely eroding freedom of speech, especially after the attempted July 15 coup against his rule.

Thousands of cases probing alleged insults against the president were opened before the coup, then dropped after its defeat as a gesture of national solidarity.

But the interior ministry said on Saturday it is investigating 10 000 people suspected of terror-related activity on the internet or for posting comments on social media that insult government officials.

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