Artist flees Turkey after Erdogan insult
Michael Dickinson thought an enlightened judge had let him off. But his acquittal has been overturned
A British artist, Michael Dickinson, has fled Turkey after learning that he could be jailed for insulting the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in a collage he made called Good Dog (above), which shows the PM as a dog on a Stars and Stripes lead.
Dickinson had been acquitted last September on charges of insulting Erdogan when the judge decided that though the artwork was insulting according to Turkish standards, it would not be according to standards in the European Union. And because Turkey was trying to join the EU, Dickinson's collage should not be seen as a crime.
Such enlightened thinking was welcomed by Dickinson and fellow artists. But a week ago he heard that the public prosecutor had overturned the acquittal and Dickinson was going to be retried. He decided to drop everything and leave the country where he has lived for 23 years.
"I caught a plane out as soon as I could, leaving most of my possessions behind, including my books, furnishings and computer,” said Dickinson. “I was sad to leave, but I don't fancy another taste of Turkish hospitality in incarceration."
He was held in jail for 10 days - in conditions he described as horrific - when he first showed the portrait in Turkey in 2006. David Blunkett, a former Home Secretary, happened to be visiting Istanbul and intervened on his behalf. Dickinson was released, but warned he would be prosecuted.
Dickinson is member of the so-called Stuckist movement, which is "pro-contemporary figurative painting with ideas" but against conceptual art as practised in recent years by many British artists. He is now staying with friends in Durham, hoping that the British government will refuse to extradite him to Turkey for a retrial. ·
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