Turkish legal action against Charlie Hebdo

Anindita Ramaswamy and Ergin Hava
·3-min read

Turkey has condemned Charlie Hebdo over a cover of the French satirical magazine's edition that lampoons President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"I heard that the magazine in France, which published the despicable and immoral cartoons of our prophet, has now targeted me with a cartoon on its front page," Erdogan said, adding that he has not seen the image himself.

The cover of the weekly features a caricature of Erdogan in a white T-shirt and underwear, sitting in a chair holding a canned beverage and lifting the dress of a hijab-wearing woman to reveal her naked backside.

"Ooh, the prophet!" says the speech bubble.

The issue is headlined: "Erdogan - he's a lot of fun in private."

"My sadness and anger is not because of this disgusting attack against me, but because the very same media is the source of impudence against our beloved prophet whom we hold so dear," Erdogan said.

He was addressing members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, who rewarded him with a standing ovation, cheers and several minutes of applause.

Charlie Hebdo's caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, which had enraged Muslims a decade ago, have come back into the spotlight following the recent beheading of a teacher in France who had shown them to pupils in a class on freedom of speech.

President Emmanuel Macron strongly defended the magazine and said that France "will not give up (its) cartoons."

"Unfortunately, we are going through a period when hatred against Islam and Muslims and disrespect against our prophet is spreading like a cancer, particularly among leaders in Europe," Erdogan told his party's parliamentary group.

In Paris, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said France "will never give up" on its support for freedom of expression despite "intimidation".

Asked about Turkish criticism of the cartoons, Attal said there was "great European unity" in support of France and "the principles and values defended by France".

Hateful statements against journalists had been responsible for terrorist attacks in France in recent years, Attal noted in an apparent reference to the January 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo by two Islamists in which 12 people were killed.

Meanwhile, the chief public prosecutor in Ankara launched an investigation into Charlie Hebdo's executives and Erdogan's lawyers have also filed a criminal complaint against the weekly, state news agency Anadolu reported.

The investigation and suit are valid under Turkish law and jurisdiction because the insults were against the president.

Turkey and France are already embroiled in a furious row, with Erdogan disparaging Macron and questioning his mental health after the French leader outlined measures which he said would protect his country's secular values against radical Islam.

On Monday, Erdogan appealed to Turks to boycott French brands, following similar actions in Muslim-majority countries in response to Macron's support for the Mohammed cartoons - deemed blasphemous by Muslims.

Several Turkish opposition politicians charged that Erdogan's boycott call aimed to manipulate the agenda and create a distraction amidst the country's deep economic troubles.

Ali Babacan - a former AKP heavyweight, Erdogan aide and head of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party - called his demand "childish" and "empty propaganda".

Turkey and France are also at odds over drilling and maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean, the conflict in Libya and most recently the fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The enemies of Islam and Turkey "will be drowned in the swamp of grudges and hatred," Erdogan said, adding that these are signs Europe is returning to an "era of barbarianism".