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Man faces two years in Turkish jail over artwork
1:40pm Friday 29th January 2010 in News
AN ARTIST who mocked the Turkish prime minister by portraying him as a dog in a collage could be jailed for refusing to pay a court fine.
Michael Dickinson, 59, appeared before a judge in Istanbul on Wednesday, where he was found guilty of mocking Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The artwork, called Good Boy, showed the prime minister as an animal with a stars and stripe lead and a nuclear missile for a tail.
Mr Dickinson, who has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years, was originally charged in 2006, but acquitted two years later.
But the case was reopened and Mr Dickinson, who is from Durham, was convicted on Wednesday of insulting Mr Erdogan.
After hearing that Mr Dickinson would refuse to pay any fine issued, the judge adjourned proceedings until March 9.
“Before the judge gave his verdict, he asked my lawyer if I had anything to say,” a defiant Mr Dickinson told the Durham Times after the court hearing.
“I told the judge that if he gave me a fine, I would not pay it in protest at the attack on my freedom of speech.
“The judge said he was going to give me a month to think about whether I wanted to pay the fine or face up to two years in a Turkish jail.”
Mr Dickinson initially fled Turkey last year and returned to the North-East when the charges were brought, but found that he could not get a job and returned to Istanbul.
The controversy began when he exhibited another collage, Best in Show, which depicted Mr Erdogan as a dog being given a rosette by George Bush.
Police seized the picture, and Mr Dickinson appeared in court in September 2006 and was told he would not be prosecuted.
He then held up Good Boy outside the court in protest and was arrested for a second time.
Mr Dickinson added: “I am determined not to pay it, so I will be put in prison.
“I won’t pay because I don’t regard what I have done as a crime.
“I don’t want to go to prison, but that is the only alternative on offer.”