Musa Kart is a well known Turkish cartoonist, famous for his regular satirical work in the country’s oldest newspaper, Cumhuriyet. Kart was arrested in October 2016 along with eight others, including the paper’s editor-in-chief and other prominent Turkish journalists, and is now one of a group of 19 former Cumhuriyet employees who will go to trial on July 24, 2017 on charges of “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abusing trust.”
Cumhuriyet, which is a traditionally left-leaning and secular publication, has become a target of the increasingly authoritarian Erdoğan regime as it cracks down on journalism across Turkey. Kart has come under fire from Erdoğan before, having been arrested in 2014 after he drew a cartoon of two criminals succeeding at robbing a bank while a hologram of Erdoğan looks the other way. The piece implicated the President in corruption that Cumhuriyet contended he allowed to happen in 2013 while he was still Prime Minister. Kart was eventually allowed to walk free.
Kart’s indictment took five months for Istanbul prosecutors to produce, and accuses him and the other journalists of having cooperated with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and of bending to the will of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish preacher and former Erdoğan ally now living in the U.S. whom the government blames for last summer’s failed coup. The government’s case rests on baseless accusations that the paper started “an intense perception operation, targeting the government of the Turkish Republic and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by using asymmetrical war tactics” and provided “a basis for illegal politics.” In fact, Kart and his colleagues have been demonstrably critical of the Gülen movement since before the attempted coup.
Kart faces a possible 29-year sentence, while the others face between 15 and 43 years each. The group will have spent nine months in prison by the time their trial starts on July 24, a common occurrence in Erdoğan’s Turkey that allows the government to detain political opponents without due process. Join us in calling on the Turkish government to respect freedom of expression and drop its charges against Kart.