Turkey opens probe against columnists over Mohammed cartoon

Istanbul (AFP) - Turkish prosecutors on Thursday opened an investigation into two commentators writing for daily newspaper Cumhuriyet who illustrated their columns with the controversial Prophet Mohammed cartoon published by Charlie Hebdo.

The prosecutors were investigating Cumhuriyet columnists Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya on suspicion of "inciting public hatred and insulting religious values", the official Anatolia news agency reported.

The probe was opened a day after Cumhuriyet published the special edition marking the first edition of the French satirical weekly after the attack on its offices that killed 12 people.

Cumhuriyet published a four-page Charlie Hebdo pull-out translated into Turkish including cartoons satirising Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram and Islamic State (IS) jihadists.

The edition did not include the controversial front cover of the Prophet Mohammed that has angered Muslims around the world.

But a smaller version of the cartoon was included twice inside the newspaper, on pages 5 and 12, to illustrate columns on the subject by Cetinkaya and Karan.

The investigation came as Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu condemned the publication of cartoons of the Muslim prophet as an "open provocation", warning that Turkey would not tolerate insults against Mohammed.

"Freedom of the press does not mean freedom to insult," said Davutoglu. "We do not allow any insult to the prophet in this country," he added.

A Turkish court on Wednesday ordered a block on access to websites featuring the cover of the post-attack Charlie Hebdo, after a petition from a single lawyer claiming that the printing of the cartoon had the potential to endanger the public order.

In the contentious cartoon, the prophet sheds a tear and holds a sign with the viral slogan "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie"), in a gesture of apparent repentance after the killings.

Earlier a group of 60 demonstrators staged a protest in front of the Caglayan courthouse in Istanbul and lodged a complaint against the Cumhuriyet newspaper.

"Ceyda and Hikmet will be brought to account," the group chanted, referring to the columnists.

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