Turkey court orders conditional release of jailed cartoonist

President of Turkey and Leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during AK Party's parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara on February 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

ISTANBUL, June 6, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – A Turkish court on Tuesday ordered the conditional release of one of Turkey’s most prominent cartoonists a day after he was jailed to serve a 14-month sentence for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, media reported.

Nuri Kurtcebe, 69, was detained and sent to prison Monday after a police check found him on a bus travelling in the northwestern Turkish city of Yalova,

But his lawyer Erdem Akyuz told Turkish media that a tribunal ruled Tuesday evening that the cartoonist should be released on probation.

“My client Nuri Kurtcebe will resume hs work, his drawings and his cartoons after having been deprived of his pencils and ink for two days,” Akyuz was quoted as saying by the private Dogan news agency.

Kurtcebe had been handed the jail term last year for several caricatures he drew in 2015, but launched an appeal and remained free pending the ruling.

His lawyer said earlier Tuesday that the authorities were enforcing the sentence after an appeal was turned down by an upper court.

“What’s recognised in all over the world is that artists express their work freely and that politicians, compared to others, are more tolerant to criticism,” Akyuz had said.

He had added that it was not clear in the court’s ruling which cartoons or expressions were the source of the charges.

Kurtcebe, whose daily cartoons were published in the Aydinlik newspaper, also drew for a number of publications including Hurriyet and opposition Cumhuriyet newspapers as well as satirical magazine Girgir.

Musa Kart, a Cumhuriyet cartoonist who was sentenced to three years and nine months jail in April on charges of aiding outlawed “terrorist organisations” along with several other staff, lashed out at the court’s verdict.

“It seems that the ruling party has not yet given up on its idea of neutralising cartoonists with prison sentences,” he said, quoted by Cumhuriyet.

“I hope and wish that this political climate deprived of a sense of humour will change on June 25,” he said.

Turkey is heading for parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24 when Erdogan is seeking a new mandate under the expanded powers of a full executive presidency.

Thousands of Turks, from a top model to high school students, have been prosecuted on charges of insulting Erdogan since he became president in 2014.