CYPRUS: MEP candidate acquitted in Erdogan insult case

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After more than a year, Turkish Cypriot newspaper publisher and MEP candidate has been acquitted of offending Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan.

A Turkish Cypriot court in Nicosia dismissed a lawsuit against the newspaper filed by Turkey’s Ambassador Derya Kanbay in the Turkish occupied north, after the paper had republished a cartoon (originally shown in the Greek media) depicting an ancient Greek statue urinating on the head of Erdogan.

The newspaper came under violent attack after the publication of the caricature, when several extreme right nationalists threw stones and caused damages to the paper’s offices in January last year. Afrika had received the support of a number of political parties and unions.

According to Turkish Cypriot newspaper YeniDuzen, the court perceived the caricature as criticism through satire, and therefore the publisher of Afrika Sener Levent and journalist Ali Osman Tabak were acquitted.

Afterwards, Sener Levent called it a “historic decision”, stressing that "we are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus".

He said that the court’s decision will contribute to the Turkish Cypriot struggle for independence from Turkey.

Afrika in an article published earlier had noted that the Ambassador despite having filed the lawsuit, failed to appear before court to testify.

Amongst others, Levent and Afrika had received support from the teachers’ union KTOS and press workers union Basin-Sen who, in a joint press release said that the decision is a milestone for democracy and freedom of press in the Turkish Cypriot community.

"Those who support that 'this country is ours' and support the Cypriot identity and culture must demonstrate their commitment to this struggle," the unions stated.

Levent is running in the European Parliament elections on 26 May with another 5 Turkish Cypriots under the Jasmine Movement (Yasemi).

The publisher of Afrika newspaper is a fierce critic of Turkey and its current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s meddling in the north.