The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to be developing his megalomania on a more personal level. He took exception to a caricature produced for the Cumhuriyet daily newspaper which ridiculed Erdogan over the corruption scandal that hit the headlines recently.
The artist, Musa Kart could have faced nearly 10 years in jail for just poking a little fun at the increasingly dictatorial Islamist President. Today's Zama reported:
Cumhuriyet reported on Monday that according to the indictment filed by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, Erdoğan filed a criminal complaint against cartoonist Musa Kart for insulting him and slandering him via the media in a caricature that was published in the daily's Feb. 1, 2014, edition. The press bureau of the prosecutor's office initially ruled that there were no grounds for legal action over the caricature. However, upon objections from Erdoğan's lawyer, the Bakırköy 14th High Criminal Court ruled that the cartoon went beyond the boundaries of criticism and revoked the initial decision. The indictment filed afterward calls for a prison sentence of up to nine years and 10 months for Kart.
The cartoon depicted a couple of thieves stealing from a safe. One says "Don't rush, the watchman is a hologram". In the background is a figure of Erdogan who apparently appeared as a 10 foot hologram at one of his rallies!
Cult of the personality strikes again.
Or should it be ego?
The irony is that none of the 209 people implicated in the scandal was charged. Not one. All charges were dropped by the public prosecutor. With a little help from Erdogan who had all the investigators, police and prosecutors replaced when the whole sorry affair became news.
The protector of public morality on behalf of the Turkish people was more concerned about a cartoon than allowing justice. There's a surprise.
However the attempt to punish Musa failed and he was cleared of charges today. In his defence En.Haberler reported that Mr Kart said in his defence:
“Yes, I drew it [the cartoon] but I did not mean to insult. I just wanted to show the facts. Indeed, I think that we are inside a cartoon right now. Because I am in the suspect's seat while charges were dropped against all the suspects [involved in two major graft scandals]. I need to say that this is funny.”
Yes it was.
And budding dictators don't have a sense of humour.
Turkey is a society that remains divided between Islamists and secularists. The fact Musa Kart avoided imprisonment shows there remains some hope that democracy and justice can be saved from the increasingly authoritarian and corrupt Islamist regime led by the humourless self serving President Erdogan.
This case shows how important free speech and expression is and how fragile it can be if attacked by those who don't believe in it for anybody but themselves.