The cartoonist Mehmet Düzenli began serving a three-month prison sentence yesterday in the southern city of Alanya on a charge of insulting Adnan Oktar, a controversial Muslim preacher who is well known for his creationist, anti-masonic, anti-Zionist and holocaust-denial views.
The sentence was passed by a court in the nearby town of Sirik on 10 April as a result of lawsuit brought by Oktar over a cartoon about him. Düzenli refused to appeal on the grounds that a decision to suspend the sentence would still prevent him from expressing himself freely in his cartoons.
“If Mr. Oktar has the right to claim that he is the Mahdi (the redeemer who is supposed to appear at the ‘end times’), I have the right to say that he is lying,” Düzenli said.
“Jailing Düzenli over a cartoon is totally unacceptable,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk. “Such a disproportionate sentence is a reminder that Turkey’s penal code often violates the country’s own constitution as well as international conventions on freedom of information. The Turkish authorities must urgently carry out the necessary reforms, including decriminalizing defamation and insult.”
Turkey is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.