LEGAL SMEAGOL

Unsure if a comparison to Gollum is an insult, a Turkish court appointed a panel to find out

A Turkish man is on trial after being accused of insulting president Recep Tayyip Erdogan by comparing his facial expression to that of Gollum, the Lord of the Rings character. The trial, however, has been adjourned until February to allow a group of experts to study the comparison and determine whether or not it is an insult, according to local media.

A report in the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman says that neither the prosecutor nor the chief judge have seen the Peter Jackson films in which Gollum, one of the original characters from JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit (and its sequels), is portrayed as a small, sinewy, saucer-eyed creature with frequently pained expressions on his gaunt, round face.

According to the paper, doctor Bilgin Çiftçi was fired from the Public Health Institution of Turkey (THSK) in October 2015 for sharing a meme of the Turkish president. It featured side-by-side comparisons of Erdogan and Gollum smiling, looking surprised, and eating.

Çiftçi, who faces up to two years in prison, claimed he did not insult anybody, because Gollum is not a bad character.

But even Çiftçi’s lawyer told the court even he has only seen parts of the films. Now, the court has reportedly ordered a panel of experts—two academics, two behavioral scientists or psychologists, and a film and TV production expert—to weigh in on Gollum’s character.

Erdogan’s presidency has been known for its crackdown on journalists and the media. Last year, a journalist and former talk show host was detained over a single tweet about a corruption probe into AKP, Turkey’s ruling party.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search