I was at
court on Monday. I had to go with a lawyer and hand a letter of
confession to a judge. As a result I am to be charged with insulting
the dignity of the Prime Minister of Turkey, and face a possible
jail sentence of three years.
Let me explain
this year the Turkish Peace and Justice Coalition (Baris ve Adalet
Koalisyon - BAK) was given council permission to put up a "Peace
Tent" on the waterfront at Kadikoy (a district of Istanbul
where I live). It displayed anti-war pictures, posters and banners.
There were stands with information and a stage at one end for
speeches and concerts.
I took along
some of my own anti-war collages (mostly featuring Bush and Blair)
to ask if they could be included. It was the first day and BAK
was still busy getting everything together, but one guy knew me
from exhibitions I've done in the past, and gave me carte blanche.
I put my pictures (about 10 altogether) up on the inner flap at
the entrance. They stayed there for the next few days, attracting
the interest of visitors. I didn't spend much time at the fair
before the Peace Fair was due to end I decided to add a new collage
- one of Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Erdogan with the body of
a dog, winning first prize in a show, having a Stars 'n' Stripes
rosette attached to his collar by George W Bush. The tent was
busy at the time I went. No one noticed as I stuck it up and left.
When I returned
next afternoon I found all my pictures gone. Questioning some
stewards I learnt that the previous evening a couple of civil
police inspecting the tent had taken exception to my picture of
Prime Minister Erdogan as a dog and called the uniformed police.
which appeared in several of last week's Turkish newspapers, explains
"Bush's Dog" court case
case against Global Peace and Justice Coalition (BAK) member
Erkan Kara for "insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister"
has opened. If found guilty he faces a penalty of from 1
to 3 years in prison.
was arrested after a poster showing Prime Minister Erdogan
as Bush's dog was stuck up inside the tent erected on March
11 for BAK's Peace Fair in central Kadikoy to protest the
occupation of Iraq by USA.
to Sesonline, civil police inspecting the place noticed
the poster and arrested those on duty in the tent - Erkan
Kara, Gulen Sahin, Mehmet Demir, Filiz Ulget and Burak Delier.
The poster was also taken.
statements made to the public prosecutor, charges were dropped
against the accused Demir, Sahin, Ulget and Delier, but
it was determined that Erkan Kara being responsible for
the tent, a charge of insulting the Prime Minister should
be brought against him.
to accept his responsibility, Kara said: "A lot of people were
coming and going in the tent. I didn't see who put the picture
up." The case opens next week at Kadikoy Magistrates Court."
When I learnt
about the situation I agreed to write a letter claiming sole responsibility
for the offending picture. I went with BAK's lawyer to the court
building this week and presented thde letter officially to the
judge, asking for the charge to be dropped against the hapless
it is me who will have to face the charge. The date for my appearance
in court has yet to be announced. It may take months.
of the Turkish constitution makes it an offence to insult the
"Turkish identity" or state institutions, including the armed
forces. This is a restriction of freedom of speech that does not
exist the countries of the EU, and if Turkey really wants to become
a member of that organization it would be advisable for them to
I don't want
to go to prison.
Michael Dickinson is an English teacher working in Istanbul, Turkey.
Dickinson did the cover art for two of CounterPunch's books, Dime's
Worth of Difference and Serpents in the Garden, as well as Jeffrey
St. Clair's Grand Theft Pentagon. He can be contacted at http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/yourgallery/artist/details.php?id=499
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