A Turkish Instagram influencer is facing up to three years in prison for sharing photos from a birthday trip to a sex museum in Amsterdam on Instagram in January 2020.
Merve Taskin, 23, was arrested a few months later in Turkey after sharing what she described as “joke” photos. She is now facing prosecution under Turkey’s obscenity law, which makes it a crime to publish material that is deemed offensive on the internet.
In Turkey, anyone found guilty under Article 226 of Turkey’s penal code can be sentenced to up to three years in prison.
The Instagram model reportedly snapped the photos, which included paintings and various penis-shaped pasta and a “sexy bottle opener” which was on display at the museum, then posted the images on her Instagram account of over 580,000 followers.
“My purpose was to make jokes,” Taskin told BBC News.
But the young Turkish woman was arrested in Istanbul a few months after she returned to her home country.
She told the Het Parool newspaper in the Netherlands: “I then made a statement to the police. I thought it was over, but months later I was arrested again.
“This was during my summer vacation in Çanakkale, when I was in a hotel. I was then detained overnight and I then explained the posts to the prosecutor. He then said I was free.”
But the influencer says she has now been told to appear in court in Istanbul on October 26 to face an obscenity charge.
Since receiving the court summons, Taskin says she has deleted many tweets “so they wouldn’t complain again”.
Taskin said she is afraid to testify in court but will do so willingly.
“I don’t want to go to jail for a photo I shared in the sex museum in Amsterdam,” she reportedly said.
Meanwhile, the Sex Museum has criticized the charge against Taskin, calling it “absolutely ridiculous”.
“This is such a sad situation,” the museum reportedly wrote in a post on Instagram.
Museum director Monique van Marle told the BBC she had reached out to Taskin to offer her support.
Van Marle says she told Taskin that she was “sorry to hear about the trouble” and that Taskin is a “great role model to other women”.
“Our museum is intended to educate people all around the world about the history of sex,” van Marle told Taskin.
“We admire you for expressing yourself and posting such pictures.”
Human rights groups have previously raised concerns about censorship laws in Turkey following a number of social media crackdowns dating back as far as 2016.
Freedom House says Turkey “remains one of most challenging places in the European region to exercise one’s right to free speech and expression”.
It adds that journalists, activists, and opposition figures face “widespread persecution for criticising the government”.