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Gollum 'not evil' say Turkish experts, over Erdogan comparison controversy

A panel of experts ruled that Gollum was an 'innocent victim', as judge decided case is arrested over alleged 15 July coup links
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey (AFP)

ISTANBUL, Turkey A court-appointed panel of Turkish experts has ruled that the character Gollum from the literary and film classic Lord of the Rings is not evil but just an innocent victim.

The panel was appointed as part of a case against Bilgin Ciftci, a Turkish physician, who was accused of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he posted a series of pictures of Erdogan alongside images of Gollum on his Facebook account. 

The report said "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.”

The report said its conclusion was based on reviewing both JRR Tolkien’s books and the film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, according to the Turkish Cumhuriyet newspaper.

It did not however agree with Jackson’s view at the time that the character used on Ciftci’s post was Smeagol and not Gollum. The report said it was up to the court to decide on those statements.

Jackson has pointed out, in a joint statement with filmmakers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens given to the Wrap entertainment site, 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."

Ciftci had posted three pictures of the character in various states such as in shock, surprised and while eating alongside pictures of Erdogan caught in similar poses:

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 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.

Meanwhile, Murat Saz, the judge hearing the case was arrested on 21 July after the botched coup attempt and is accused of being a member of Fethullah Gulen’s movement.

Turkish authorities accuse Gulen, a US-based Turkish preacher, and his followers who they say lie hidden in Turkey’s state apparatus, of being behind the coup attempt.

The court had previously rejected the expert report on Gollum because it was not jointly prepared by the three appointed experts.