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Previous controversy: Michael Dickinson's banned website and President Bush "pants" collage here
On this page: Overview | First collage seized | Letter to Tony Blair | Second collage and jail | Letter to Gordon Brown | Court adjournments | Acquittal | Acquittal overturned | New Trial | Guiltyl | Sentence

(Istanbul Collage Stuckists)

Article on Wikipedia.
For high res image downloads click here.


Michael Dickinson is a British artist and the founder of the Istanbul Stuckists. He has lived in Turkey for over 20 years.

In June 2006 he displayed a collage Best in Show (left) showing the face of Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, on a dog's body being given a rosette by President Bush. This was in an anti-war show organised by the Global Peace and Justice Coalition. Dickinson had work in the show and added this particular collage without the organisers' knowledge. The collage was seized by the police, and he was told he would be prosecuted.

In September 2006, he arrived at court in Istanbul and was informed he would not be prosecuted for lack of evidence, but that Erkan KayaIn of the Global Peace and Justice Coalition would be prosecuted. Outside the court he held up a similar collage, Good Boy (left), showing the face of the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip on a dog's body with a stars and stripes leash and nuclear missile tail. Dickinson was arrested and detained for 10 days in "horrific" conditions. He was informed he would be prosecuted for displaying this collage.

In October 2007 he arrived at court, and the case was adjourned so that the opinion of professors could be ascertained as to the worth of the collage.

On 24 March 2008, he appeared in court. The professors of art from Marmara university invited by the judge to give their evaluation as to whether it was art or insult didn't show up, so the trial was adjourned.

On 25 September 2008, he appeared in court again under article 125/3 "insulting the prime minister" with a possible two year jail sentence if convicted. He was acquitted of the charge.

In June 2009, the acquittal was overturned, and he fled to England, giving away all his possessions. Unable to find work, and refused Jobseekers Allowance, he returned to Turkey.

He was summoned to court again and the case adjourned.

27 January 2010, the judge in Kadiköy law court, Istanbul, said Dickinson was guilty of insulting the Turkish Prime Minister with the collage. When Dickinson said he would not pay any fine, though that could result in up to two years in prison, the judge delayed a final decision until a hearing at 2pm on 9 March 2010.

On 9 March 2010, the judge sentenced Dickinson to 425 days in prison. This would have been the first time anyone had received jail for criticism of the prime minister. However, the judge then immediately communted the sentence to a £3,000 fine. When Dickinson said he would not pay the fine, the judge said the fine would not be enforced, as long as Dickinson did not make any further collages about the prime minister for the next five years.

For other similar cases, see the Turkish Freedom of Expression group list (page 9). Michael Dickinson site here. Email mdickinson@kablonet.com.tr. Read his article on Counterpunch.

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JUNE 2006


Below: Best in Show with face of Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister, on dog's body, being given a rosette by President Bush.

Political censorship

Michael Dickinson is the John Heartfield of our time with his scathing, inventive and exquisitely-wrought political collages.


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JUNE 2006

June 8 2005 White House press release
President Bush: Turkey's democracy is an important example for the people in the broader Middle East, and I want to thank you for your leadership. Mr. Erdogan.
Prime Minister Erdogan: I can summarize the main titles of our discussion as freedom, democracy, rule of law, fight against terrorism, security and human rights.

Tony Blair has been asked to intervene, after Michael Dickinson, founder of the Istanbul Stuckists, has been told he will be prosecuted for "insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister" for displaying the collage shown above in Istanbul. It features the Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, as a dog being given a rosette by President Bush.

The charge carries a sentence of 1 to 3 years imprisonment. Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckists, has written to Tony Blair to ask him to intervene in the case, saying:

It is intolerable that a country applying for EU membership should censor freedom of political comment in this way. I trust you will communicate your strongest condemnation and ask for this case to be abandoned immediately. I ask for your assurance that you will oppose Turkish EU membership in the strongest terms, until Turkey adopts the attitudes of the civilised world towards human rights.

Thomson commented, “If Blair doesn’t intervene, he is condoning the violation of human rights. If Saddam Hussein isn’t allowed to get away with it in Iraq, why should Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey?”

The case again raises serious questions about Turkey’s human rights record in its bid for EU membership, which Blair has said he is “proud to champion”. In January following an international outcry, charges of “insulting Turkishness” were dropped against leading Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk for speaking about Armenian genocide.

Dickinson, who lives in Turkey, displayed his collage in an exhibition in Istanbul on March 11. The exhibition’s organiser, Erkan Kaya, has already been charged with “insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister”. On Monday last week (5 June) Dickinson went with a lawyer to the judge’s office on his own initiative and submitted a letter, admitting sole responsibility for displaying the work, titled “Best in Show”. He was informed that he would be notified when he has to appear in court.

The mixed media exhibition was part of a Peace Fair, staged with council permission in central Kadikoy, Istanbul, by the Global Peace and Justice Coalition (BAK), with anti-war statements particularly about American action in Iraq. After complaints about the collage, civil police arrested all those on duty in the show tent, Erkan Kaya, Gulen Sahin, Mehmet Demir, Filiz Ulget and Burak Delier, and removed Dickinson’s work. Following statements made to the public prosecutor, charges were dropped against all but Erkan Kaya, the organiser of the show, who was deemed liable. He disclaimed responsibility, saying, “A lot of people were coming and going in the tent. I didn’t see who put the picture up." Dickinson had other collages on display, but had included this one during the course of the show without authorisation.

Michael Dickinson site here. The collage is also on the Saatch Gallery site.
Other court cases concerning freedom of expression in Turkey here
Michael Dickinson's (other) collages were then displayed at Ucari Cafe, Bahariye Cad., Ali Suavi Sok, (Sanatkarlar Sokagi), No 28, Kadikoy, Istanbul.

Guy Denning wrote to his MP Dan Norris (16.6.06):
"Can you assure me that you will address this issue seriously and condemn this gross violation of human rights and freedom of artistic expression."

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Good Boy by Michael Dickinson. The face is Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister.
The text on the cloth on the dog's body translates as, "We Will not be Bush's Dog!"
Michael Dickinson said, "It was a sign some protestors had wrapped around their
pet boxer dog at an anti-war rally a couple of years ago."

Michael Dickinson was detained in jail for 10 days after he held up this collage outside the court in Istanbul.

Video interview on More 4 here.
Story in Guardian here (13.9.06).

His collages were shown at the Stuckists Go West exhibition at Spectrum London gallery.

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Michael Dickinson faced possible jail for his collage.
Sign the protest petition on mungbeing.com.
The petition states:
"We, the undersigned, support an artist's right of free expression.We stand firmly with Amnesty International in their calls on the Turkish authorities to terminate without delay all prosecutions against individuals under the notorious Article 301, and to abolish all other articles in the Turkish Penal Code that stifle and punish freedom of speech and expression. We call for the prosecution of Michael Dickinson over his political collages to be dropped."

Article on Michael Dickinson in Pasadena Weekly (20.9.07), Northern Echo (2.10.07), + Artinfo, New York (2.10.07). Also Coxsoft (19.9.07) and Saatchi Gallery blog (6.9.07).
See the Independent (15.5.07) (3rd story) Also Guardian blog post (21.5.07).
The collage was displayed in the A Gallery here.


29 September 2007

Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

Dear Prime Minister

I would like to ask for your intervention in the case of British artist Michael Dickinson, who lives in Istanbul, where he is due in court on 8 October under Article 125 on a charge of “insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister” after displaying a collage. Conviction can result in a jail sentence of up to two years.

I enclose a copy of this collage, Good Boy, which depicts the Turkish Prime Minister’s head on a dog’s body with a Stars and Stripes leash. This kind of satire is of course commonplace commentry in this country, and it is intolerable that a country applying for EU membership should censor freedom of political comment in this way.

A year ago, when he was arrested, Mr Dickinson was held for 10 days in a Turkish police station, in inhumane conditions. He reports that he could get virtually no sleep, with lights on twenty-four hours a day, thick cigarette smoke, loud music, shouting from policemen, and screams from prisoners being abused in the next room.

Mr Dickinson’s case has already achieved international media coverage with coverage from UK national press including The Times and The Guardian.

I trust you will communicate your strongest condemnation of this prosecution to the Turkish government, and ask for this case to be abandoned immediately. I ask for your assurance that you will oppose Turkish European Union membership, until Turkey adopts the attitudes of the civilised world towards freedom of speech and human rights.

Michael Dickinson is the Istanbul representative of the Stuckism International art movement.

Yours sincerely

Charles Thomson
Co-founder, The Stuckists


The Prime Minister's office passed the letter to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Stephen Sneath, Desk Officer, Turkey, Afghanistan, Former Soviet Union, replied on 31 October 2007 (excerpt):

I am sure you will understand we are unable to interfere in the judidicial process of other countries, just as other countries are unable to interfere in our judicial process.

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Michael Dickinson appeared in Kadikoy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, Kadkoy, Istanbul on 8 October 2007, accused of insulting the dignity of the Turkish Prime Minister under Article 125. The case has been adjourned. Michael Dickinson said, "Case due for 11.30 was delayed until 2 pm. A couple of witnesses gave evidence - a plain-clothes police woman who said she'd seen me open the poster of Good Boy last year in the corridor of the court building when I was showing it to another person; and the policeman who had arrested me after I opened it to photographers waiting outside. The judge said the next hearing will be on the 24th March, during which time he will have gathered the opinions of the university arts professors on my work."

MARCH 2008

March 2008: case adjourned On 24 March 2008, he appeared in court. The professors of art from Marmara university invited by the judge to give their evaluation as to whether it was art or insult didn't show up, so the trial was adjourned again.

Michael Dickinson (left) with Abby Jackson (center) in 2008 in Istanbul.

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Stuckist artist Michael Dickinson acquitted in landmark Turkish court case over this collage

Good Boy, the offending collage by Michael Dickinson shows
the face of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
The text on the cloth on the dog's body translates as, "We Will not be Bush's Dog!"
Michael Dickinson said, "It was a sign some protestors had wrapped around their
pet boxer dog at an anti-war rally a couple of years ago."

Michael Dickinson, a British artist prosecuted in Turkey for "insulting the dignity of the prime minister" because of a collage he made, was acquitted in a ground-breaking ruling by the judge (25.9.08).

The judge read out a testimonial letter from Prof Mehmet Ozer, an art teacher at Marmara University saying that in his opinion Dickinson's collage Good Boy was more an example of "political criticism" rather than "insult".

The judge disagreed with this and said he thought that the collage was insulting according to Turkish standards.

He then went on to say that this sort of art was quite normal in the European community, mentioning cartoonists in Spain and Germany, who sometimes caricatured politicians as pigs or other animals without being accused of insult. His conclusion was that as Turkey was trying to join the European community a collage such as Dickinson's should not be held as a crime.

Michael Dickinson said, "So I'm free, without even a fine. I'm very relieved to have it all over now after having lived under the shadow of the charge for the last two years. "My lawyer and I might talk later about possible compensation for the discomfort I suffered, but at the moment I'm just trying to let it sink in that I don't have to worry about this any more, and hope that my acquittal might have an effect on the decisions of the judges of the many other cases where Turkish writers and artists face criminal charges for having expressed their opinions in writing, speech or art."

Conviction carried a possible two year jail sentence.

Michael Dickinson founded the Istanbul Collage Stuckists group in 2004.

Read the story in The Guardian and The Northern Echo (26.9.08), and as syndicated by Associated Press (25.9.08) worldwide to International Herald Tribune, Forbes, Philadelphia Enquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Journal Gazette, Seattle Times, Anchorage Daily News, Press of Atlantic City, Yahoo, Fort Mill Times and others. Also on the BBC.

Articles in Hendon and Finchley Times (30.9.08) and Hendon and Finchley Press (2.10.08).

Search google news and google for more coverage.

Story prior to the case in the Northern Echo and here, also on Coxsoft.

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JUNE 2009

Michael Dickinson fled Turkey to avoid prosecution for his Good Boy collage after hearing that last September's acquittal had been overturned.

Dickinson said, "I caught a plane out as soon as I could, leaving most of my possessions behind, including my books, furnishings and computer. I was sad to leave after 23 years in Turkey, but I don't fancy another taste of Turkish hospitality in incarceration."

See Coxsoft and The First Post (29.6.09), The Times (also Nancy Durrant p.2), The Guardian (4th item), The Independent, BBC, Daily Mail, The Northern Echo, Durham Times, Northumberland Gazette, Huffington Post and Hürriyet (30.6.09), The Journal, Herald de Paris and ArtInfo (1.7.09). All news results including Turkish language here.

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Having failed to find work in the UK and being refused Jobseekers Allowance, Dickinson returned to Turkey and faced a new trial on 3 November 2009. An account of it is here. The case was adjourned to 27 January 2010.

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27 JANUARY 2010

Michael Dickinson guilty of insulting the Turkish prime minister with the Good Boy collage, says judge. He refuses to pay any fine and faces up to two years in jail : BBC report (27.1.10).

Also Hurriyet, The Journal (with Amnesty International quote), and Press Association report in The Scotsman, Abroath Herald, Sunderland Echo and The Star (S. Yorkshire). Blogs: Art in Liverpool (28.1.10), Durham Times + photo (29.1.10). Blogs: Guncel Meydan (31.1.10), Andrew Finkel in Today's Zaman (2.2.10).

Edgeworth Johnstone on Michael Dickinson in the Ham & High Broadway (4.2.10) - click to page 3

Michael Dickinson emailed us:

"Supposed to start at 11.20, my hearing was delayed for two hours as the judge went through cases before mine. It was the same rigmarole more or less, although my lawyer, Volkan, put up an impassioned speech for freedom of expression. The judge asked if I had anything to say before he gave his verdict. I couldn't think of anything to say except 'Biktim' ('I'm bored/fed up with this.')

Just before the judge was about to pass sentence Volkan explained to him that if he had decided to punish me with a money fine, I had decided not to pay one as a protest against this law against freedom of expression. The judge called for a 10 minute break while he considered the situation.

After we had come back from the recess, a last paragraph of the preceding record of what had been said was deleted. The judge gave his decision. I had gone too far with the imagery in my collage, he said, and particularly by showing it in public.

He did consider it an 'insult to the Prime Minister' and had decided to punish me, but was witholding his official verdict and sentence: he was going to adjourn the case for a final trial on March 9th at 2pm in order to give me time to reflect and review my defence. I deserved to be punished, and if I refuse to pay a fine I will be sent to prison, possibly for 2 years.

No sum of money was mentioned for the fine, but I will not pay, no matter how small it might be."

Earlier coverage in Northern Echo (26.1.10), and Press Association story (27.1.10) in Google News , Belfast Telegraph, AOL, Dundalk Argus, Virgin Media , Independent (Ireland), Daily Express and Channel 4.

Read Michael Dickinson's article in Counterpunch (22.1.10)

"Last week, Turkey was identified as the worst violator of the European convention on human rights between 1959 and 2009. According to figures released by the European court of human rights, the country accounted for almost 19% of all violations, with 2,295 judgements issued against it. Turkey also had the highest proportion of violations in 2009, making up 347 out of 1,625 negative rulings. The most common violation was the denial of the right to a fair trial. Turkey also had 30 rulings against it following complaints of inhumane or degrading treatment." - The Guardian (31.1.10)

Istanbul is the 2010 European Capital of Culture.

See the new updated Good Boy 2 on Michael's web site

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9 MARCH 2010

:The judge sentenced Dickinson to 425 days in prison, immediately commuted to a £3,000 fine, which Dickinson said he would not pay. The judge said the fine would not be enforced, provided Dickinson made no further artworks of the prime minister for the next five years: BBC report (9.3.10).

See also Deutsche-Presse Agentur report on Monsters and Critics (10.3.10) and comment by Michael Dickinson on Counterpunch (12.3.10).