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Turkish President Scolds Cafe Patron for Violating Smoking Ban

ISTANBUL — An Istanbul cafe was fined 6,000 lira ($2,680) on Monday after Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan scolded one of its clients from the street below for smoking and demanded the establishment be punished.

The sight of Erdogan wagging his finger at the smoker as crowds of curious onlookers took pictures with their phones triggered a backlash on social media, with his opponents seeing it as evidence of an increasingly authoritarian nature.

Smoking indoors is banned in public places in Turkey.

"There is a penalty for this!" Erdogan shouted, pointing towards the second floor of the cafe.

"That rude man, look at him. The president is telling him (not to smoke) but he is still continuing," Erdogan told his aides as he continued a stroll through the neighborhood of Esenler after a ceremony for government buildings on Sunday.

Responding to the episode, one twitter user wrote "smoking is healthier than fascism," using a hashtag directed at the president: "#cigarettes are not as harmful as you".

Critics of Erdogan, a devout Muslim with roots in Islamist politics, accuse him of meddling in private life, from his declaration of a form of yogurt as the national drink over the aniseed spirit raki, to his suggestion women should bear three children.

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— Reuters