By Ece Toksabay
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish police raided a magazine on Monday over a mocked-up "selfie" of a smiling President Tayyip Erdogan with the coffin of a soldier - an allusion to comments that families of soldiers killed by Kurdish rebels could be happy about their martyrdom.
An Istanbul prosecutor's office banned distribution of the latest edition of Nokta magazine and ordered raids on its offices over charges of "insulting the Turkish president" and "making terrorist propaganda", after the cover was published online, the magazine said in a statement.
"Our cover that prompted the police raid may be harsh, disturbing or even cruel. (But) these are not crimes for a media institution, this is our form of speech," the statement said.
The cover depicted a grinning Erdogan in shirt-sleeves taking a selfie, in the background a coffin draped in the red Turkish flag being borne along in state by soldiers.
The image was a clear reference to escalating violence between the state and Kurdish militants, who have killed more than 100 security personnel in past weeks. But it is also an implicit criticism of comments Erdogan has made on military deaths.
Erdogan has been widely criticized for comments made at the funeral of one soldier killed in clashes.
"How happy is his family and all his close relatives, because Ahmet has reached a very sacred place," he was widely quoted as saying across Turkish national media.
The Nokta statement explained its mock picture as a reaction to those comments.
"President Erdogan said martyrdom is a cause for happiness. People take selfies when they feel happy. Our cover is ironic and carries a high dose of criticism," the statement said.
Erdogan's domination of the media, much of it owned by conglomerates with business ties to the AK Party, has pushed Turkey, which is a candidate for membership of the European Union, towards the bottom of global press freedom rankings.
Turkey currently ranks 154th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index in 2014.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, expressed concern over raids against Nokta.
"Ban, raids & arrest worsen already worrying situation re freedom of expression in Turkey. Authorities must keep the media free," he tweeted.
The section editor of the magazine was freed after being detained for several hours by the Turkish police on accusations of insulting Erdogan and 'terrorist organization propaganda', Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper reported.
Scores of people have been investigated on accusations of insulting Erdogan, who has become increasingly intolerant of criticism in recent years. Last week, a 17-year old high school student was jailed for 11 months after making a speech found to have denigrated the head of state, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Nokta magazine had previously been banned for eight years for a previous controversial cover. It restarted publishing only in May this year.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in a Kurdish insurgency that began in 1984. A ceasefire broke down in July.
The PKK is deemed a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union as well as Turkey.
(Writing by Ece Toksabay, editing by Jonny Hogg and Angus MacSwan)