ISTANBUL, Turkey, March 26 (UPI) -- A Turkish court reduced the sentences of two magazine cartoonists convicted of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Bahadir Beruter and Ozer Aydogan, of the satirical weekly Penguen, were sentenced Mar. 24 to over a year in prison after a reader complained to Turkey's information ministry over an alleged hidden symbol in a cartoon. In the cartoon, Erdogan welcomes a guest to his lavish new presidential palace by suggesting "At least we could have slaughtered a journalist." Erdogan's circular hand gesture implies he is homosexual, the complainant claimed.
Baruter explained in court, "The joke has got nothing to do with the gesture. There is no such joke technique."
Prosecutors in Istanbul demanded the court punish the two men for the crime of "insulting a public official," but their sentences were reduced to 11 months and 20 days. Wednesday the court ruled again, removing the jail term but imposing a fine of 7,000 Turkish liras ($2,700) each.
Over 70 people have been prosecuted for allegedly insulting Erdogan since his August 2014 election to the presidency.