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British artist fined for insulting "pride and dignity" of prime minister

(BIANET/IFEX) - 15 March 2010 - "Turkey would be nicer without the threat of imprisonment," says British collage artist Michael Dickinson, who depicted Turkish President Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan as the dog of former US President George W. Bush. Dickinson was detained and sentenced to 425 days imprisonment. His sentence was later converted to a fine.

Dickinson was convicted after the Court of Appeals overruled the initial decision for his acquittal.

Dickinson has been living in Turkey for 23 years and was a faculty member at Yeditepe University (Istanbul). It is believed that he left Turkey after the 4th Circuit Appeals Court reversed the earlier decision.

The British artist is the Istanbul representative of the "Stuckism" art movement, which originated in Britain in 1999 to promote figurative painting in opposition to conceptual art. The case against him was filed with several representatives of an exhibition held by the Global Peace and Justice Coalition (Küresel BAK) on 11 March 2006 to protest the Iraq invasion.

The court of appeal said in the reversal decision, taken unanimously on 25 May 2009: "It is understood that the defendant is an English citizen who has been living in Turkey for 20 years and who worked as a teacher at various educational institutes and universities. He had close experiences with Turkish customs and traditions and he was able to anticipate the effect of his action on the public."

As reported by , after the Appeal Court's reversal, the Kadıköy (Istanbul) 2nd Magistrate Criminal Court sentenced Dickinson to 425 days imprisonment for insulting the prime minister under article 125 of the Turkish Criminal Code after the court ruled he had disregarded Erdoğan's "pride and dignity".

The sentence was later converted to a fine.

After the hearing, Dickinson told the BBC: "Of course I am relieved. I did not know the outcome. But I still think that I am not guilty and I cannot say that my work will not be related to politicians in the future."

"I like it here. I like the food and the weather. But if I had drawn a caricature about Brown in England, at least I would not have had to fear imprisonment."

After the hearing in January, Dickinson was quoted as saying, "If the judge imposes a fine on me, I will tell him that I am not going to pay it in order to express my protest against such an attack of freedom of expression. I do not want to go to prison but this is the only alternative I have."

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