ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey said on Wednesday it will take legal and diplomatic steps in response to a caricature of President Tayyip Erdogan in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which officials called a “disgusting effort” to “spread its cultural racism and hatred”.
Turkish anger at the caricature added fuel to a row between Turkey and France about cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, which flared after a teacher who had shown pupils the cartoons in a lesson on freedom of speech was beheaded in France this month.
The cartoon on the cover of Charlie Hebdo showed Erdogan sitting in a white T-shirt and underpants, holding a canned drink along with a woman wearing an Islamic hijab.
“Our people should have no doubt that all necessary legal and diplomatic steps will be taken against the caricature in question,” Turkey’s Communications Directorate said.
“Our battle against these rude, ill-intentioned and insulting steps will continue until the end with reason but determination,” it said in a statement.
Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul told reporters in Ankara that Turkish authorities had taken all necessary initiatives with the relevant authorities. State media also reported that Turkish prosecutors had launched an investigation into Charlie Hebdo’s executives.
Top Turkish officials had condemned the caricature, with presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin saying it had no respect for “any belief, sacredness and values” and showed “their own vulgarity and immorality. He said the caricature could not be considered freedom of expression.
Turkish presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun said “Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit!”
“We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred,” Altun wrote on Twitter.
Erdogan sharply criticised Macron at the weekend, saying the French leader needed a mental health check, prompting France to recall its ambassador from Ankara. On Monday, Erdogan urged a boycott of French products.
The Prophet Mohammad cartoons, considered blasphemous by Muslims, have been displayed in France in solidarity and Macron has said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values, angering many Muslims.
(Reporting by Daren Butler, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Robert Birsel and Dominic Evans)