Lawyers for Turkey's president plan to appeal a Turkish court's decision to fine him for criticizing a statue meant to promote peace between Turkey and Armenia, the local news site Today’s Zaman reported. Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called the sculpture a “monstrosity” during a 2011 visit to the eastern city of Kars, prompting local authorities to remove the statue.
The court ruled Erdogan must pay 10,000 Turkish lira ($4,000) in compensation to sculptor Mehmet Aksoy, who created the 115-foot work known as either the “Monument to Humanity” or the “Statue of Humanity.” According to Today’s Zaman, Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time of the visit, remarked: “They put a monstrosity next to the tomb of [Muslim scholar] Hasan Harakani. It is impossible to think that such a thing should exist next to fundamental works of art.”
Aksoy claimed Erdogan’s labeling of the statue in this way was an “insult” and that its removal had caused him mental anguish, while Erdogan’s defense lawyers claimed the leader’s comments were a critique rather than an insult, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reported. Aksoy strongly criticized Erdogan’s assessment of the work depicting two concrete figures reaching out to each other. The sculptor said it embodied anti-war themes and messages of friendship. The statue had been built on a hill about 25 miles from the Turkish-Armenian border.
Turkish-Armenian relations remain tense after decades of antagonism over Turkish killings of Armenians in the early 20th century, which many have called genocide. Turkey’s government has firmly opposed labeling the mass killings genocide, an issue that has prevented the two countries from establishing diplomatic ties. Erdogan recently said Turkey was ready to “pay the price” for the mass killings, but only if an “impartial board of historians” could agree Turks were guilty of the crime, the Washington Post reported. The centenary of the start of the killings will be marked by Armenians around the world next month.