The trial against 2 columnists from the opposition daily Cumhuriyet opened in Turkish courts on Thursday. They are accused of publishing a caricature of the prophet Mohammed which appeared on the front page of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo after the January 7th attack which killed many off its editorial staff.
The prosecutor requested 4 and a half years’ imprisonment for Ceydan Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya, charged with “inciting hatred” and “insulting religious values.” Cumhuriyet was the only daily in the Muslim world to print 2 smaller versions of the front page published by Charlie Hebdo after the attack, in its paper edition of January 14th.
The drawing next to the editorial by Mr. Karan and Mr. Cetinkaya, represents Mohammed with a tear in his eye and holding a sign saying “I am Charlie”, the slogan used by protesters in France and abroad condemning the jihadist attacks which left 17 dead in Paris.
The 2 journalists were not present at the first hearing in an Istanbul court on Thursday, to the fury of the plaintiffs. The prosecutor requested they be arrested, but the judge did not rule on that request.
Over 100 people including the daughter, the son, and the son-in-law of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, filed a lawsuit against the daily paper, on the grounds of being offended by the editorial written by the 2 Turkish journalists, and by the Charlie Hebdo caricature. Publishing such a drawing was “provocative,” said Kamil Ozcelik, one of the plaintiffs, in court. The next hearing is scheduled for October 12th.
At the time it was published the caricature led to violent protests around the Muslim world. The conservative Muslim Prime Minister called it “extremely provocative.”
Apart from this case, the daily Cumhuriyet also attracted the wrath of Mr Erdogan last month, for publishing an article and pictures suggesting Turkey had armed Jihadist rebels fighting the Syrian regime.