Turkey threatens lawsuit over Charlie Hebdo caricature of Erdogan

©Al-Araby Al-Jadeed

Controversial French magazine Charlie Hebdo could face criminal charges in Turkey, prosecutors said on Wednesday, after the satirical weekly published a cartoon of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The threat of legal action comes amid a bubbling row between France and Turkey over the treatment of French Muslims.

A host of Turkish officials have condemned Charlie Hebdo after its publication on Tuesday of a caricature attacking President Erdogan.

The cartoon depicts the Turkish president dressed in a T-shirt and underpants as he lifts the skirt of a woman wearing a burka.

"Ooh, the prophet," the caricatured Erdogan says. The cartoon is accompanied by a caption reading: "Erdogan - in private he's very funny."

Charlie Hebdo and its infamous caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammed have been at the centre of tensions between France and Turkey.

The Erdogan cartoon refers to another Charlie Hebdo cartoon showing the Muslim prophet's rear.

Earlier this month, French school teacher Samuel Paty was brutally murdered after showing the caricature to his students.

French President Emmanuel Macron's vow to not "give up" such cartoons in the wake of the killing has sparked anger across the Muslim world, with popular calls for a boycott of French goods.

President Erdogan has taken a leading role in voicing outrage against Paris' support for the controversial cartoons, encouraging a boycott of French goods and accusing the West of wanting to "relaunch the Crusades".

Erdogan responded on Wednesday to the caricature of himself published a day earlier, saying: "I don't need to say anything to those scoundrels who insult my beloved prophet on such a scale."

Prosecutors in the Turkish capital Ankara announced a legal investigation into Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.

Insulting the president is a criminal offence in Turkey. Tens of thousands have been probed over alleged insults to Erdogan in recent years, with nearly 4,000 convicted last year.

"You cannot deceive anyone by hiding behind freedom of expression! I condemn the immoral publication of the inexcusable French rag about our president," Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay bit back on Tuesday.

Joining the wave of condemnation, top aide Fahrettin Altun accused Charlie Hebdo of attempting to spread "cultural racism and hatred".

The Turkish government's communication directorate also backed legal action against the magazine on Wednesday.

"Our people should have no doubt that all necessary legal and diplomatic steps will be taken against the caricature in question," it said in a statement.

"Our battle against these rude, ill-intentioned and insulting steps will continue until the end with reason but determination."

Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders also faces prosecution in Turkey after the president's lawyer filed a criminal complaint earlier this week. Wilders shared a cartoon describing Erdogan as a "terrorist".

France and Turkey have also frequently clashed over foreign policy in recent years, with Syria, Libya and disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean proving common points of contention.


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