Fined British artist accuses Turkey of censorship
Mar 10, 2010, 10:55 GMT
Istanbul - A British artist Wednesday accused Turkey of censorship after an Istanbul court fined him almost 4,500 dollars for caricaturing the country's prime minister.
Artist Michael Dickinson displayed in 2006 an illustration that superimposed the head of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan onto the body of a dog.
The court suspended the fine, on the condition that Dickinson does not produce similar art for the next five years.
'It's censorship. It's a threat. It's punishing people who are expressing their opinion,' Dickinson told dpa, the day after the verdict was handed down.
'There is a lack of freedom in a country where journalists can be arrested or cartoonists fined for expressing their opinion,' said the artist, who has been living in Turkey for the last 23 years.
Dickinson's illustration was first shown as part of an Istanbul anti-war exhibition. The artist was later arrested and charged with insulting the Turkish prime minister.
A local court initially acquitted Dickinson in 2008, but a state prosecutor asked that the case be reopened.
This is not the first time that artists have been charged with insulting Erdogan.
Several cartoonists from the satirical magazine Penguen were taken to court after depicting him as nine different animals in 2005. The case was ultimately thrown out, although Erdogan has won damages from several artists over the years.
European Union-candidate Turkey has a spotty record on freedom of expression issues.
An illiterate woman in the country's predominantly Kurdish southeast region is currently facing a jail term of seven years for holding up a placard in support of Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
And several Kurdish journalists have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in recent years for referring to the PKK leader as the 'honourable Ocalan.'
Article 301 of Turkey's penal code makes it a crime to insult the Turkish state. The rather vague law has been used against journalists and writers, including Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.