69-year-old Turkish cartoonist to serve 14 months in prison for insulting Erdoğan

Turkish cartoonist Nuri Kurtcebe, 69, has been arrested after a jail sentence he was given on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was approved by a higher court, Turkish news reports said on Monday.

Kurtcebe, who used to work for famous Turkish humor magazines and publications, was convicted of insulting the Turkish president and sentenced to 14 months in prison due to a cartoon of Erdoğan he drew in 2015.

The jail sentence, which was handed down by the Fethiye 2nd Penal Court of First Instance, was recently approved by a superior court, as a result of which Kurtcebe was detained by gendarmes in Yalova province on Sunday evening.

The cartoonist was sent to a prison in Yalova after appearing in court on Monday.

Kurtcebe’s lawyer, Erdem Akyüz, told Turkish news outlets that the court ruling does not make a clear reference as to in which of his cartoons Kurtcebe insulted Erdoğan.

He said according to a universally accepted principle, artists should be allowed to express themselves freely in their work and that politicians should be more tolerant than others toward criticism.

Kurtcebe was released on Tuesday over an objection by his lawyer to the court. The court has ruled judicial probe for Kurtcebe.

Hundreds of people in Turkey including high school students face charges of insulting President Erdoğan. Even the slightest criticism is considered insult, and there has been a rise in the number of cases in which people inform on others claiming that they insulted the president, the government or government officials.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 242 journalists and media workers were in jail as of June 3, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 182 were under arrest pending trial while only 60 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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