• President Erdogan and his family were complainants in the case
  • Prominent columnists sentenced to two years each in jail

Two prominent columnists at Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper were each sentenced to two years in jail for reprinting cartoons from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in a case pressed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and several members of his family.

A court on Thursday charged Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya with “inciting hatred and enmity in the people via means of the press,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Erdogan, his son Bilal, daughters Sumeyye and Esra, and his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, who’s now the nation’s energy minister, were among 1,280 complainants seeking prosecution of the two journalists, Anadolu said.

It was unclear whether the two columnists would actually be forced to serve time in jail. Turkish courts frequently issue suspended sentences for such violations, meaning the convicted are free unless they repeat the offense.

Erdogan has pressed charges against Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief Can Dundar, and the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul, seeking to send the two men to prison after the paper published photos of Turkish arms shipments to Syria. The president’s lawyers have also opened some 2,000 insult cases against Turkish citizens since he became president less than two years ago. Erdogan is currently in the process of suing a German comedian for insulting him in a poem, bringing his press crackdown across Turkey’s borders and into Europe.

Turkey is ranked 151st of 180 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, which was updated on Wednesday. That puts the European Union candidate one ranking worse than Tajikistan and one better than the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Karan and Cetinkaya reprinted cartoons published after Islamist extremists linked to al-Qaeda murdered 11 people at Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris in January 2015. The sketches carried in Cumhuriyet showed a crying Prophet Muhammad holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign. Charlie Hebdo was attacked after its earlier depictions of Islam’s prophet.

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