ANKARA: Turkey jailed a bakery union head for “publicly insulting the Turkish nation” on Wednesday (Nov 9), state media reported, after he said society’s “stupid” fondness for bread explained why it had elected President Tayyip Erdogan’s governments for two decades.
Union for Bread Producers Union Chairman Cihan Kolivar made the comments to broadcaster Haberturk on Monday as he spoke about the rising price of bread and Turkey’s soaring inflation.
“Bread is the staple food for stupid societies. I speak scientifically, I am not making it up – per capita consumption is 210kg in Turkey; and 45kg to 50kg in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, Japan,” Kolivar said.
“Since our society eats their fill with bread, such rulers have been ruling it for 20 years.”
An Istanbul court on Wednesday remanded him in custody pending trial, the state-owned Anadolu news agency reported. Turkey is widely criticised by rights groups and Western allies for limiting freedom of speech.
Critics blame Turkey’s economic ills on Erdogan’s unorthodox monetary policies, which he says are aimed at boosting exports, investment and jobs.
Inflation in October climbed to a 24-year high of 85.5 per cent, having started to surge last year as the lira slumped after the central bank began cutting rates as sought by Erdogan.
Erdogan’s ruling AK Party spokesperson Omer Celik said Kolivar’s remarks constituted hate speech.
“In addition to insulting our nation and bread, this person’s statements show that he is an element of the politics of hostility, the politics of hatred,” Celik said.