Turkish sculptor Mehmet Aksoy faces more than four years in prison after being accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Prosecutors in the Turkish capital, Istanbul, have demanded 56 months in jail for the artist who allegedly insulted the president by saying Erdogan’s earnings were illegitimate.
In March, a sculpture by Aksoy titled “Monument of Humanity”, which was created to encourage reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, was labelled as a “monstrosity” by the Turkish president.
A court later found the Turkish leader guilty of insulting Aksoy and ordered him to pay 10,000 Turkish Liras ($ 3,750) in damages to the sculptor.
Aksoy has denied insulting the Turkish president, saying,”My words were not meant to insult the president. I meant that this money just fell in my lap and was not money earned through the sweat of your brow.”
The controversial 35-meter tall (115 feet) sculpture of two human figures, with one holding an open hand toward Armenia, overlooks an area in Kars near the country’s border with Armenia. Local authorities started the demolition of the sculpture, which was commissioned in 2009, in April 2011.
Many Turks have been taken to court for insulting Erdogan. Opponents of the Turkish president have been accusing him of authoritarianism and showing no tolerance for criticism.
Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia have been nonexistent and the border between the two nations has been closed for more than two decades.
Tensions between the two countries remain high over Turkey’s unwillingness to recognize as genocide the killings of about 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman forces in 1915.