Two prominent Turkish journalists were sentenced to two years in jail by a court on Thursday for using a controversial cartoon of Prophet Mohammed that was published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo alongside their columns. Hikmet Cetinkaya and Ceyda Karan, the columnists who write for the Opposition daily Cumhuriyet, will challenge the ruling at the appeals court, their lawyer Bulent Utku told AFP.
The journalists went on trial last January, charged with “inciting public hatred” and “insulting religious values”. Cumhuriyet had published a four-page Charlie Hebdo pull-out translated into Turkish, which marked the magazine’s first issue since its Paris office was attacked in 2015. While the edition did not include the controversial front cover that featured Prophet Mohammed, a smaller version was included twice inside the daily.
The verdict comes amid growing restrictions on press freedom in the country. Cumhuriyet strongly opposes President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-centric government. The newspaper is often targeted by prosecutions, with its editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul also on trial on charges of revealing state secrets. They could face multiple life sentences, if found guilty.