When Bilgin Ciftci posted photographs online that likened Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Gollum from Lord of the Rings, he lost his job and was arrested for insulting the president. Now, his freedom hinges on a Turkish court’s decision about the very nature of good and evil: Specifically, was Gollum “bad?” Or was he simply corrupted by power? If Gollum is “good,” then the court has no case against Ciftci. If he’s “bad,” it’s two years in a Turkish dungeon for him.
Today, there was good news as a court-appointed panel of Turkish experts ruled that:
“it is not possible to state that the character Gollum is unequivocally negative or evil. As a result of reading the relevant literature and examining the film, it has to be stressed that the character Gollum rather than representing evil is portrayed as an innocent victim – and readers and viewers also see the character in that light.”
Hobbit and Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson put out a joint statement with filmmakers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens on Ciftci’s behalf, saying that the character depicted in the photos was not even Gollum, but Smeagol, the other half of the character’s split personality.
“If the images below are in fact the ones forming the basis of this Turkish lawsuit, we can state categorically: none of them feature the character known as Gollum,” it read.
“All of them are images of the character called Smeagol, Smeagol is a joyful, sweet character. Smeagol does not lie, deceive, or attempt to manipulate others. He is not evil, conniving, or malicious — these personality traits belong to Gollum, who should never be confused with Smeagol.”
From the Middle East Eye:
As the spotlight on the case grew, Ciftci lost his job in October last year while facing up to two years in prison for violating Article 301 of the Turkish constitution, which punishes anyone who “publicly denigrates state officials, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial institutions of the state”.
The report which indicated that Gollum was not, in fact evil, was handed to the court on Wednesday and signed by Esra Bilgic, an academic at Bilgi University, Sercan Keceli, a psychologist, and Serhat Damar, a clinical psychologist.
Ciftci’s lawyer, Hicran Danisman, called for his client to be acquitted and for his post to be seen as within the scope of freedom of expression and not a case of defamation.
“Our defence from the very beginning was along these lines. The posted images should have been considered in the context of freedom of expression. We don’t want the court to acquit my client because ‘Gollum is not evil’ but within the scope of freedom of expression,” Cumhuriyet quoted him as saying.
A letter written on behalf of Erdogan, asking for most cases of defamation against him to be dropped in the wake of the 15 July coup attempt to promote national unity, has reached the court.
The court will take it into consideration during the next hearing scheduled for 25 October.
So, we’ll keep you posted.
Btw, Bilgin Ciftci would be an amazing hobbit name. Just sayin’.