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Student gets suspended jail time for posting caricature of mayor on Facebook

(BIANET/IFEX) - The 4th Magistrate Criminal Court in Eskişehir, northwestern Turkey, sentenced 22-year-old Erdem Büyük to imprisonment of 11 months after the university student posted a caricature of Büyükşehir Mayor Yilmaz Büyükerşen on the social networking website Facebook.

Büyük was charged with "attacking personal rights", based on article 125 (Defamation) of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK). Since he is still a student and has no record of a previous conviction, the sentence was postponed for five years, during which time Büyük may not commit the same crime again. If he reoffends, the sentence will be executed.

Büyük said that the caricature was neither bad nor degrading. "I liked the caricature. I took a caricature I liked from another site and shared it with my friends. I did not have bad intentions," he said.

Vahap Ata, the lawyer for Büyük, noted that Mayor Büyükerşen was himself a former journalist and caricaturist. "Büyükerşen proudly talks about this at every opportunity. It is strange that now he has become a complainant regarding the posting of a caricature about himself," said Ata of the mayor's attitude.

Erdem Büyük is an economics student at Osmangazi University in Bursa (northwestern Anatolia). He posted the caricature of Democratic Left Party (DSP) Mayor Prof. Dr Büyükerşen on Facebook after local elections on 29 March 2009. Police arrested Büyük after they confirmed his identity via his computer's IP address.

Büyük was released after he gave his statement to the police, but a lawsuit was later launched by the mayor over Büyük's criticism of his municipal work and mocking depiction of him.

Büyük said that he intends to appeal the decision before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
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