Mehmet Aksoy, the sculptor who was awarded TRY 10,000 (USD 3,750) in damages by a court in March after President Erdoğan had his sculpture torn down, is now on trial for 4 years, 8 months in prison over insulting Erdoğan after having described the money he was paid as ‘dirty money,’ reports.
Asked on what he would be spending the TRY 10,000 (USD 3,750) in damages he was to be paid by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during an interview, sculptor Mehmet Aksoy responded: “I would never make a sculpture with dirty money.”
In retaliation to Aksoy’s comment, Erdoğan has filed a criminal complaint against the sculptor on the grounds that he insulted the president. The indictment prepared by the Press Crimes Bureau states that Aksoy implied that the president’s earnings were illegitimate and demands a prison sentence of up to 4 years, 8 months for the sculptor.
In his defense testimony, Aksoy claimed that the point of his statement had not been to insult the president, “Throughout my professional career I have sculpted nearly 10 tons of stone. What I do is very labor-intensive. 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 any toil and sweat.”
In March a court had awarded Aksoy TRY 10,000 (USD 3,750) in damages for an insult case he had launched against President Erdoğan demanding TRY 100,000. The court had found Erdoğan guilty of insulting the sculptor Mehmet Aksoy over an incident in 2011 when the president called Aksoy’s statue symbolizing goodwill between Turkey and Armenia a “monstrosity.”
The comments by Erdoğan, then prime minister, came during a visit to the northeastern city of Kars. “They put a monstrosity there, next to the tomb of [scholar] Hasan Harakani,” Erdoğan had said during his January 2011 visit, “It is impossible to think that such a thing should exist next to a true work of art.”
Former Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay had defended Erdoğan at the time, saying that the prime minister had not used monstrosity in reference to the statue, which Erdoğan denied, “No, I meant it in reference to the statue.”
Erdoğan went on to express his hope that the mayor of Kars, also hailing from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), would “do what is necessary” before the prime minister’s next visit. The statue was taken down on June 14, 2011 by the Kars Municipality.
Sculptor Aksoy strongly criticized Erdoğan’s comments, saying his work carried a message of peace and friendship, and filed a lawsuit against Erdoğan for his insult to the statue.
In an unorthodox move last year, the Turkish Language Association (TDK), the official governing body of the Turkish language, declared that the word “monstrosity” (ucube) was not an insult and did not have negative connotations.