Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has volunteered evidence for a Turkish court case in which a doctor is accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by comparing him to Gollum. Turkish doctor Bilgin Çiftçi faces a prison sentence of up to two years after sharing a meme with three pictures of Erdoğan alongside film stills from Lord of the Rings. In a statement given to The Wrap, Jackson, along with screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, say the allegations of insult are incorrect, as the individual shown in the meme is not Gollum, but Sméagol — the character before he was corrupted by the One Ring and who reasons with Gollum.
"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. All of them are images of the character called Sméagol," said Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens in a joint statement. "Sméagol is a joyful, sweet character. Sméagol 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 Sméagol."
Lawyers for Çiftçi originally intended to defend their client with arguments of freedom of expression, reports the Associated Press, but were forced to change tact after this defense failed. The court has instead demanded that experts assess the character of Gollum to judge whether or not the comparison is truly insulting.
turkey is ranked 149th out of 180 on the press freedom index
Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, and in recent years the country has taken a sharp turn towards harsh and intolerant censorship. A Turkish court banned YouTube for two years for hosting videos deemed insulting towards the country's founding father, and Turkey made the vast majority of all takedown requests on Twitter in the first half of this year. In October, a prominent Turkish journalist, Ahmet Hakan, was even beaten in front of his house by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party or APK. (The APK itself later denounced the attack.)
According to a report from BBC News, the case involving Çiftçi has now been adjourned until February, but the doctor has already lost his job in Turkey’s public health service. Some Twitter users, meanwhile, have suggested that a more fitting Lord of the Rings comparison for President Erdoğan might be Saruman or Denethor — characters who are corrupted in one way or another by their love of power.