Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya, two columnists for the Cumhuriyet daily, were sentenced to two years in prison by an Istanbul court yesterday for re-publishing controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons deemed insulting to Muslims.
The court announced the verdict on charges of inciting public hatred in the case, as hundreds of people filed a complaint against the two after publication of the cartoons last year.
Karan and Çetinkaya had published the cartoons by French magazine Charlie Hebdo, one week after a bloody attack on its headquarters that killed 12 people. Both cartoons featured a figure regarded as Prophet Muhammad. Any depiction of the prophet is forbidden in Islam, a notion that the magazine was criticized for exploiting with the purpose of inciting Muslims. Two columnists were released pending trial last year and did not attend yesterday's trial.
Judges did not seek a reduction in prison term for the two defendants, despite the fact that prison terms up to two years are generally commuted to fines within the Turkish legal system. The court justified the lack of reduction in the sentences to "the defendants' behavior throughout the trial, which did not indicate any regret justifying reduction and their imperious behavior toward the court." The court dismissed charges of "insulting religious values" and acquitted the defendants of this charge.