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Turkish journalist briefly detained over cartoon tweet

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A columnist for a top Turkish opposition daily was briefly detained on Wednesday over a tweet of a cartoon depicting a janitor appearing to disinfect the mind of a religious cleric, Agence France-Presse reported.

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a one-and-a-half-year sentence for Cumhuriyet journalist Enver Aysever on charges that his tweet, dating from last year, “denigrated religious values observed by a part of the public.”

The cartoon showed a janitor, dressed in white overalls, spraying disinfectant into the cracked-open head of a heavily bearded man who appeared to represent conservative Muslims in Turkey.

Aysever gave a statement to the police after being brought in for questioning on Wednesday and then released, Cumhuriyet said.

“They do this on purpose to taint my reputation and put an end to my columns in Cumhuriyet,” the paper quoted Aysever as saying after his release.

Defending the journalist, Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the Istanbul chairwoman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), tweeted that “Under the [ruling] AKP government, humor … has been banned.”

Cumhuriyet — Turkey’s oldest daily, founded in 1924 — is a thorn in the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, seeing many of its journalists land in court.

The paper is owned by a foundation that ensures its independence, making it one of Turkey’s few media outlets not subservient to big industrial holding companies close to Erdoğan.

Cumhuriyet riled Turkish officials in 2015 by reproducing a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad in the wake of the deadly attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

Turkey is one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists, ranking 154th in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

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