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Court drop prison time, levy fine Turkish cartoonists for 'insulting' Erdogan

An Istanbul court has softened its ruling against two cartoonists for insulting the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It wasn't the first time the magazine had run foul of Erdogan.

An Istanbul court changed its sentencing of cartoonists Ozer Aydogan and Bahadir Baruter, who were initially to serve 11 months in prison. They were instead fined 7,000 Turkish lira (2,490 euros) each, Turkish media reported on Wednesday.

The pair had penned last August's cover of the satirical magazine Penguen in which a man greets President Erdogan at the gate of his controversial mega-palace.

The president says: "There could have been a warmer welcome, you could have at least sacrificed a journalist!"

The joke riffs on the Islamic tradition of sacrificing animals to mark major events and Erdogan's AK Party-led government has been Concern about democracy and press freedom in Turkeycriticized for eroding press freedoms during its 12-year rule#.

A citizen filed a complaint saying one of the officials in the cartoon was making an apparent hand signal used in Turkey to insult homosexuals, implying that the president is gay and offending the country's moral values.

The magazine had no comment but the cartoonists - who did not attend their trial - told Hurriyet newspaper that no such gesture was intended.

Erdogan's attorneys joined suit, demanding that the court punish the artists for "insulting a public official," Hurriyet newspaper reported.

Penguen Comics Satire Türkei

Penguen, a satirical weekly magazine, frequently pokes fun at political and social taboos in Turkey. Here a voter is scene stuffing money into a ballot box thinking: "This is all I could scrape together."

Penguen frequently lampoons the powerful

It's not the first time the satirical weekly has run afoul of Erdogan. In 2005, while still prime minister, the Turkish leader sued Penguen after it drew him as a variety of zoo animals and entitled the series "The World of Tayyips." The case was dismissed.

But more recently other citizens have offended the president's sensitivities. These include a former Miss Turkey winner, who is facing a possible jail term for allegedly insulting him on social media, and a 13-year old boy who this month was questioned by police over a critical Facebook post.

jar/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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