Lawyers representing President Erdoğan are demanding that two cartoonists from popular satirical magazine ‘Penguen’ be punished for “insulting a public official”.
Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan, cartoonists for the popular satirical weekly ‘Penguen’, have been sued by Erdoğan for the 21 August, 2014 cover of the magazine. In the picture, Erdoğan is seen asking whether officials at the new presidential palace in Ankara have prepared “any journalists to slaughter,” referring to ritual sacrifice in Islam. The President’s lawyers claim that the figure seen welcoming the president was shown making a hand gesture that is offensive in Turkey. Both Turkish cartoonists face up to two years in jail if found guilty of “insulting” President Erdoğan.
Baruter pleaded not guilty to the charges at court. “If you look at the whole picture, you see that the joke has got nothing to do with the gesture. There is no such joke technique,” he said.
Aydoğan also pleaded not guilty, arguing that Baruter drew the joke as he conceived it and “such a simple thing could not be included in this joke.”
After both parties testified, the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul adjourned the case on 20 March until the hearing for the verdict.
This is not the first time ‘Penguen’ has been sued by Erdoğan. When he was prime minister, Erdoğan demanded 40,000TL as compensation after the magazine published a cover portraying him as a series of different animals.
The magazine published that cover in support of the cartoonists from Turkish dailies ‘Cumhuriyet’ and ‘Evrensel’, who had been ordered to pay non-pecuniary damages to Erdoğan. However, a court in Ankara dismissed that case in 2006.
Over 70 people in Turkey have been prosecuted for “insulting” Erdoğan since he was elected president in August 2014. ‘Cumhuriyet’ editor-in-chief Can Dündar testified in Istanbul on 26 February following allegations that he insulted the head of state in an interview with a prosecutor who had been investigating corruption. He described the process as a “kind of deterrence policy.”
Most recently on 9 March, a local journalist in southern Turkey was sentenced to a five-month suspended prison sentence, while the houses of two more journalists from the same city were raided by police, all for “insulting” Erdoğan on their social media accounts.