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Prime minister sues magazine over satirical illustration of him; previous lawsuits against four others struck down

(BIANET/IFEX) - The weekly satirical cartoon magazine "Leman" has again been targeted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On the front cover of its 6 February 2008 issue, the magazine had made fun of a recent remark by Erdogan. He had said, "We have not adopted the scholarship and science of the West, but only its immorality."

The magazine cover featured a photomontage of Erdogan uttering those words in a speech bubble and depicting him as showing his middle finger.

The prime minister found it necessary to state, via his lawyers, that the cover was indeed a photomontage, and he is now suing for 20,000 YTL (approx. 11,300 euros) as compensation.

Magazine editor Zafer Aknar told BIANET: "We invite the prime minister to be serious. While Turkey has thousands of problems, he is suing satirical magazines. All politicians, not only Erdogan, have lost politically when they have opposed humour.

"The other day, the prime minister said, 'Do we interfere with the photos of naked women in the newspapers?' Well, we ask him not to interfere with our cover pages. He is acting in violation of universal political rules; as soon as (you) enter politics, you accept criticism as part of the game."

Aknar pointed out that the cover image has been on the Internet for a long time and everyone has seen it. He stated that, because of the prime minister's stance, the magazine received phone calls containing threats and swearing, and that they had been made a public target. According to Aknar, a statue of the late, well-known satirist Oguz Aral in Istanbul was destroyed because of this mindset.

Erdogan has sued satirical magazines and newspapers four times before, but his demands have always been rejected by the judiciary.

On 18 April 2007, the Ankara 14th Civil Court of First Instance rejected his claim for 25,000 YTL (approx. 14,049 euros) compensation from cartoonist Mehmet Cagcag and "Leman" magazine for depicting him as a tick.

On 14 February 2007, the Ankara 1st Civil Court of First Instance rejected his claim for 40,000 YTL (approx. 22,480 euros) compensation from the "Penguen" magazine for a cover depicting "The Kingdom of Tayyips".

On 27 June 2006, the Ankara 20th Civil Court of First Instance rejected his claim for 10,000 YTL (approx. 5,620 euros) compensation from cartoonist Sefer Selvi of the "Günlük Evrensel" newspaper after the case returned from the Supreme Court of Appeals. On 5 May 2005, the Istanbul 1st Civil Court of First Instance rejected the case of Prime Ministerial advisor Cüneyt Zapsu, who had filed a complaint over the same cartoon.

On 24 May 2007, the 4th Legal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the decree of the Ankara 8th Civil Court of First Instance, which had sentenced cartoonist Musa Kart of the "Cumhuriyet" newspaper to paying 5,000 YTL (approx. 2,810 euros) compensation for portraying the prime minister as a cat.

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