Turkish Cypriot journalist Sener Levent says he does not recognize a sentence handed down by a court in Turkey, where prosecutors accused him in absentia of insulting the country’s president with an offensive cartoon as well as offending the state’s military.
Levent, chief editor of Turkish Cypriot daily Avrupa, took to social media on Tuesday saying he had been told a Turkish court had sentenced him to one year in prison. A sentencing alternative was later reported to the tune of €570 following the outcome of the lawsuit.
The former MEP candidate said the case was in connection with a cartoon he had published in 2017 with the caption “as seen through Greek eyes” that depicted an ancient Greek statue pissing on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s head with a Greek national flag in the background.
“We are not ashamed but you should be… you drown in your shame,” Levent had written in the headline.
Levent had likened Turkey’s incursion into Afrin to a military operation in Cyprus in 1974, seen by Ankara and the north as a 'peace operation' but an 'illegal invasion' by Greek Cypriots in the south
Avrupa, a fringe media newspaper -formerly known as Afrika before reverting to its original European name- is known for publishing a series of damning articles criticizing Erdogan, including Turkey’s incursion into Syria.
Levent had likened Turkey’s incursion into Afrin to a military operation in Cyprus in 1974, seen by Ankara and the north as a “peace operation” but an “illegal invasion” by Greek Cypriots in the south.
“Another occupation operation from Turkey,” Levent wrote.
“You are terrorists, not marchers. You hit, you broke, you shattered. You attempted to murder us. You call this a campaign?” he wrote in a publication in January 2018.
Erdogan had publicly condemned Levent’s choice of words and for criticizing military operations, saying the newspaper was “cheap” and “nasty” and further calling on people in the northern part of Cyprus to “give the necessary response.”
But after people gathered in front of Afrika’s offices and began hurling rocks through the newsroom windows, many Turkish Cypriots sided with Levent who accused Erdogan of inciting violence.
Levent, who was running in May 2019 as an MEP candidate in the Greek Cypriot south, was eventually acquitted around the same time by a Turkish Cypriot court, calling the ruling the north’s "biggest legal achievement."
But the veteran journalist has refused to show up at his trial I Turkey, resulting in his conviction and one-year-sentence according to his post on social media.
Levent’s newspaper has faced several lawsuits, filed by both civilian and military authorities, including charges of defamation, libel, incitement, spying and other offenses.
Story updated to reflect sentence more accurately