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Construction worker gets jail term for posting cartoons that criticize Erdogan

Deniz Avci, a construction worker in Turkey’s western province of Balıkesir, was sentenced to two years and two months in prison for posting two cartoons that criticize Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Evrensel daily reported on Friday.

Avci received a 26-month prison sentence on the charge of “insulting the president” on social media by posting two cartoons in which Erdogan was criticized.

One of the cartoons was drawn by Sefer Selvi from the Evrensel newspaper, and the other was drawn by Musa Kart from the Cumhuriyet daily.

According to the report written by Erdi Tutmez from Evrensel, Selvi’s cartoon was published the day after Erdogan’s speech in September 2017 where he ridiculed those in Turkey who travel abroad to get a good education.

“Those [who receive education abroad] whom we expect to find ways to solve problems in their own country, are becoming voluntary agents of the West,” Erdogan said in his speech.

The day after the comment, Selvi drew a cartoon depicting Erdogan’s remarks. The cartoon showed Erdogan speaking to a schoolchild, saying, “What are you going to do with that good education of yours, become a traitor?”

When asked whether he wants his sentence to be suspended due to remorse for committing the crime of insult against the president, Avci said that he has no regrets because he did not insult anyone.

“There’s no crime in these [social media] posts [of cartoons]. I do not regret posting them. I did not insult anyone. There’s only criticism in these posts; there’s no crime done to regret,” he said.

The two years and two months prison sentence handed down to Avci was, therefore, not suspended by the court.

Avci’s lawyer, Savas Avci, told Evrensel that it is sad to see what the judiciary has become under the rule of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“While the two cartoonists who drew the actual cartoons criticizing the president receive no punishment, a construction worker gets a sentence, which is not suspended, for merely posting those cartoons on social media,” the lawyer said.

Stressing that Kart’s cartoon claims that the judiciary in Turkey is under the dominance of political power, he added: “This ruling confirms that the critical reference in that cartoon reflects reality. We feel sad about what the Turkish judiciary has become.”

No cases have been filed against the two cartoonists, and access to the cartoons online has not been blocked by the Turkish government.

The lawyer emphasized that they will take the case to appeal, and if they get no results, they will apply to the Constitutional Court (AYM).

“We will then go to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) if it is necessary,” he told Evrensel.

In Turkey, “insulting the president” is a crime according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

The article says that punishment for “insulting the president” could be a four-year prison sentence, and even longer if the crime is committed through mass media.

Since Tayyip Erdogan became the president of Turkey in 2014, thousands of people have been prosecuted and convicted according to the article.

Journalist jailed for insulting Erdogan on social media 

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