Turkish leaders condemn Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Erdogan

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Iranian protesters hold defaced pictures of French President Emmanuel Macron during a protest against Macron and the publishing of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad they deem blasphemous, in front of French Embassy in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. Macron has vowed his country will not back down from its secular ideals and defense of free speech. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

ANKARA – Turkish officials on Wednesday railed against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo over its cover-page cartoon mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and accused the publication of sowing “the seeds of hatred and animosity.”

The cartoon could further heighten tensions between Turkey and France over French President Emmanuel Macron’s firm stance against Islamism following the beheading of a teacher who showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad for a class lesson on free speech.

Leaders from around the Muslim world added their criticism of what they see as attacks on Islam in the West, while France vowed not to back away from defending freedom of expression.

The cartoons that led to the teacher’s death were the same drawings that were at the center of a deadly 2015 extremist attack on Charlie Hebdo’s staff.

The Prophet Muhammad cartoons upset many in the Muslim world. But it was Erdogan who led the charge against France and questioned Macron’s mental state. France then recalled its ambassador to Turkey for consultations, a first in French-Turkish diplomatic relations.

“We strongly condemn the publication concerning our president of the French magazine, which has no respect to faith, the sacred and values,” Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote on Twitter.

The Ankara Chief Prosecutor's office launched an investigation into Charlie Hebdo managers over the cartoon, Tukey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey punishable by up to four years in prison.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry later summoned the French charge d’affaires to protest the cartoon and to demand that the French authorities “take the necessary political and legal steps” against the drawings, which the ministry said “exceed the boundaries of freedom of expression,” Anadolu reported.