Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip ErdoganReuters

The head of a cafeteria at a Turkish opposition newspaper has been detained for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after saying he would refuse to serve him tea, the BBC reported on Monday.

Senol Buran, cafeteria head at the Cumhuriyet newspaper, was remanded but denies what he said was an insult, his lawyer said.

Buran was on his way to work on December 24 when he found roads were closed as part of security measures for a speech being given by Erdogan, according to the BBC.

He then reportedly told police officers: "I would not serve that man a cup of tea" before he was arrested.

A judge at the Istanbul criminal court jailed Buran pending a trial. Insulting the president can carry a four-year jail term.

Turkey has cracked down on dissent since a failed coup in July, and staff at the Cumhuriyet are among tens of thousands of people who have been detained, suspended or sacked during that time.

The newspaper is one of few to have taken an anti-Erdogan line.

Last month, 10 Cumhuriyet staff members were jailed pending trial, suspected of giving support to Kurdish militants and to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for masterminding the failed coup attempt.

Even before the failed coup attempt, Turkey has seen spiraling numbers of journalists, bloggers, and ordinary people - even schoolchildren - being taken to court on charges of insulting Erdogan and other top officials.

Examples include a 17-year-old teen who was charged with "insulting" Erdogan on Facebook, a Turkish philosophy professor who was accused of insulting Erdogan in an article in which he accused the president of corruption, and even the former Miss Turkey who was prosecuted for social media posts deemed to be critical of Erdogan.

Cumhuriyet’s former editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, fled to Germany this year pending appeal against a jail sentence, noted the BBC.

Erdogan last year filed a criminal complaint against the newspaper and its editor for publishing images allegedly showing trucks belonging to the state intelligence service helping send weapons to rebels in Syria.