Turkey Issues Arrest Warrant for Six-Time Olympian Derya Buyukuncu

Photo Courtesy: Chandler Brandes

Turkey Issues Arrest Warrant for Six-Time Olympian Derya Buyukuncu

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Derya Buyukuncu, the six-time Olympian from Turkey, for social media posts allegedly insulting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Buyukuncu is the subject of one of eight warrants issued by the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office, announced on Monday. What was reported as “criminal messages on social networks” apparently targeted insulting remarks about a COVID-19 bout for Erdogan, the Turkish president and strongman.


Photo Courtesy: Derya Buyukuncu

Buyukuncu, 45, isn’t in select company: Erdogan’s government has opened more than 160,000 cases into alleged insults of the president since he assumed power in 2014. Those efforts intensified after an attempted coup in 2016. Under Erdogan, Turkey is a notoriously repressive regime against journalism or perceived dissent of any kind. (Turkey is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. It has drawn stern rebukes from its crackdown on dissenters from the European Court of Human Rights.)

Even an athlete of Buyukuncu’s stature is not immune from such persecution. Born in Istanbul and reared at Galatasaray Swimming Club, he finished his education in the states as a pupil of Dave Salo in California. The Woodbridge High School graduate was named the 1993-94 Swimming World High School Swimmer of the Year before competing for the University of Michigan. He continued to coach in the United States after his swim career ended.

Buyukuncu had already competed in his first Olympics at age 16 in Barcelona in 1992. A backstroker and butterflyer, he would become on of only three swimmers to participate in six Olympic Games, retiring after the 2012 Games. His career achievements include four FINA World Cup gold medals and a bronze at the Short-Course World Championships in 2000 in the 100 back. He won silver at the European Short-Course Championships in 1999 and bronze in Euro long-course in 2000.

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