Turkish prosecutors are investigating an English artist for exhibiting a collage that depicts Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a dog receiving a prize in a pet show from U.S. President George W. Bush.
Michael Dickinson, a long-time resident of Istanbul, displayed the collage in March without permission from the organizers of an Istanbul show dedicated to peace along with other 'authorized' works themed mostly on Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and opposition to the war in Iraq.
"It came to me in a flash. I thought, 'Damn the consequences, I must put that picture up'," Dickinson told Agence France-Presse.
After the curator of the exhibit was charged with "insulting the dignity of the prime minister," Dickinson wrote to the court claiming responsibility and is now himself being investigated on the same charges.
If indicted, he will stand trial and risk one to three years in jail. The British art movement Stuckism, to which Dickinson belongs, condemned the probe as an "intolerable" repression of freedom of expression in a country seeking to join the European Union. It also wrote to Blair, asking him to put pressure on the Turkish authorities to drop the case. Last year, Erdogan sued a newspaper for publishing a cartoon depicting him as a cat. He later sued a humour magazine that protested against the lawsuit by running a cover depicting the prime minister as a variety of animals. The lawsuits prompted critics to question Erdogan's declared commitment to freedom of expression.
Arther C. Withernee, Correspondent for WEMW
Report 14 June 2006