Turkish Sculptor Mehmet Aksoy Faces Prison for Insulting President Erdogan

The giant sculpture carried a message of peace and reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.

A dispute between the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and sculptor Mehmet Aksoy could culminate with the artist getting locked up for up to four years, on charges of insulting the president.

An Ankara court ordered Erdogan to pay Aksoy ₺10,000 ($3,750) in March, after he was found guilty of insulting the artist. Erdogan had described one of Aksoy’s works, which called for reconciliation with Armenia, a “monstrosity.”

Agence France Presse reported that when Aksoy was asked by a journalist what he planned to spend the compensation on, the sculptor replied: “I would never make a sculpture with dirty money.”

Now, prosecutors are going after Aksoy on charges of insulting the president. They claim that Aksoy’s comment questions the legitimacy of Erdogan’s earnings, in reference to corruption allegations against him.

According to AFP, the sculptor denied the charges in an interview with the Turkish daily Hürriyet. “My words were not meant to insult the president,” Aksoy explained. “I meant that this money just fell in my lap and was not money earned through the sweat of your brow,” he clarified.

Sculptor Mehmet Aksoy has denied the accusations.

Sculptor Mehmet Aksoy has denied the accusations.

“Throughout my professional career I have sculpted nearly 10 tons of stone,” he added. “What I do is very labour-intensive.”

The incident is the latest in a string of cases where the Turkish president has taken artists and writers to court over apparent “insults,” as criticism against Erdogan’s authoritarian leadership style grows.

In March, a Turkish caricaturist was fined by a court for allegedly portraying Erdogan as gay in a cartoon.

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